Minister calls for additional legal aid volunteers
Last Updated: 2013-09-27 09:06 | China Daily
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Eighty-eight counties in China still do not have volunteers to provide professional legal aid services, according to the minister of justice on Thursday.

Most of the counties are in remote, impoverished areas or have large populations of ethnic groups, Minister Wu Aiying told central and provincial judicial officials at a conference marking the 10th anniversary of the implementation of the Legal Aid Regulation.

However, authorities will attach greater importance to less developed places where legal aid services are in need, she pledged.

China has 2,853 counties and county-level districts, according to the State Council Information Office.

Justice departments should encourage large law firms to set up branches in less developed regions to offer legal aid for people in need, Wu said.

President Xi Jinping urged authorities to provide better legal aid services to those in need in February, setting a guideline for the ministry's work, she said.

As of late August, 3,693 legal aid centers had been established, with more than 140,000 people offering free legal advice. In the past five years, the centers have handled 3.78 million cases.

She said justice authorities should adjust the qualification standard to make sure more people can enjoy legal aid.

Apart from poor families, eligible recipients include disabled people, juveniles and defendants who face life in prison or the death sentence, Wu said.

About 91.7 percent of local governments have included legal aid expenses in their budgets, and 920 million yuan ($150 million) was spent last year on legal aid activities, according to the ministry.

The Legal Aid Regulation, issued by the State Council in September 2003, states that central and local governments should take charge in providing legal aid services. Most of the provincial governments have also made concrete rules to implement the regulation.

Zheng Shanhe, director of Shanghai Justice Bureau, said almost 3 million people have received legal aid in the past decade.

To meet demand, the bureau included food safety, medical failure and labor disputes as legal aid issues in 2011, he said.

The subsidy for lawyers who offer legal aid was increased by 50 percent in 2011 to encourage lawyers to be more enthusiastic about volunteering, he added.

Xu Tonglu, deputy director of the Jiangsu Provincial Justice Department, said the government invited Meng Fei, who hosts a popular TV dating show, to film an advertisement to advocate legal aid services.

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