In the next two years, China will build up the legal aid
volunteer program it launched in 11 provinces and municipalities
across the country on a trial basis last year, Zhang Shi, an
official with the Legal Aid Center of the Ministry of Justice, said
"Legal assistance needs support from volunteers. To mobilize the
public to participate in legal aid is one of this year's working
targets," said Zhang.
Those who are disadvantaged -- particularly women, senior
citizens and children -- can get help from legal aid for free or at
a reduced cost.
Zhang said that China must improve three main areas to make its
legal aid system effective: more convenient registration for
volunteers, a well-organized and trained volunteer team and new
"We are thinking of sending volunteers to the counties where
there are no legal professionals at all to offer consultation," he
According to Zhang, there are more than 200 counties in China
that have no legal professionals at all.
The majority of the current legal aid volunteers are working
lawyers who are able to provide legal advice and representation to
low-income citizens. But the program also welcomes many others.
Notaries, paralegals, law school students and professionals holding
lawyers' licenses and retired legal workers can all provide
Zhang noted that people who publicize the service as well as
those who donate or raise funds are also legal aid volunteers.
When the pilot program was launched last year, thousands of
volunteers signed up at local legal aid centers. In Nanjing, the
capital of east China's Jiangsu
Province, the legal aid center has recruited about 2,000
volunteers so far.
Still, according to Lin Shengguang, an official with the center,
many other types of professionals are needed, especially physicians
and volunteers who can communicate in sign language.
(China Daily February 22, 2005)