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More Legal Aid to Protect Disadvantaged Groups

Courts at all levels should offer more assistance to disadvantaged social groups in order to protect their rights, China's chief justice said.

Xiao Yang, president of the Supreme People's Court (SPC), said "Courts should voluntarily postpone, deduct or waive lawsuit fees for migrant workers, the unemployed, elderly people living alone, or the disabled," at a national conference of presidents of higher courts held on Thursday.

He also recommended ways to help these disadvantaged groups to seek legal assistance, such as offering guidance, enabling registration of lawsuits online and setting up mobile courts in remote areas.

"These are part of our efforts to implement the 'for the people' concept and show the humanitarian concern of China's judiciary system," Xiao said.

Luo Gan, a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, said earlier this year that the socialist concept of rule of law consisted of the following aspects: governance according to the law, enforcing the law for the people, equality and justice, and leadership of the CPC.

SPC statistics showed that in 2005, courts at various levels appointed 117,407 lawyers to defendants and 266,732 people benefited from the legal assistants, saving a total of 1.265 billion yuan (US$158 million).

The Ministry of Justice on June 8 established a fund to offer legal aid to senior citizens with 2.15 million yuan (US$268,750) previously collected in public donations.

An official with the Legal Aid Center under the Ministry of Justice said the legal problems of senior citizens mostly involved property disputes or children's failure to provide support. Those who were unable to afford litigation and legal fees could apply for aid.

(Xinhua News Agency June 30, 2006)

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