Across China: Township counselors bridge legal gap in rural areas

Source: Xinhua| 2017-07-21 17:07:56|Editor: Liangyu
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NANCHANG, July 21 (Xinhua) -- Migrant worker Qiu Laiyun can finally return to work, after a legal dispute over a work accident has been resolved.

Qiu seriously injured his right hand in February when he was hired to do logging for Wu Xingchang, a farmer in Luoshi township, Fengxin county in eastern China's Jiangxi Province.

The two had been locked in a dispute over Qiu's medical expenses ever since. Local officials tried to mediate on several occasions but without success.

Xu Jianhong, 44, a township counselor since 2012, intervened to prevent the dispute from escalating, successfully solving the deadlock.

"Villagers used to resort to violence in case of disputes. But many now choose to find lawyers when they have trouble," Xu said.

Fengxin was the first county in the province to pilot the township counselor system. At the end of last year, virtually every township in Jiangxi had such counselors, which are a great help for farmers.

Zhou Shaobin, a villager in Zhangshu city, Jiangxi, has benefited. Two years ago, his son drowned after being pressured to swim in a river by several classmates. He asked for compensation from the families of the six boys without success, even attempting to fight them.

Counselor Zou Xiaohu offered help, finally persuading the parents in the classmates to compensate him.

"My son died all of a sudden. If it were not for Zou, I might have resorted to extreme means," Zhou said.

Counselors teach the public to protect their interests legally, offering legal service for concerned parties, prompting more villagers to solve disputes through legal means instead of petitions, said Jin Yuansheng, head of the Fengxin County Justice Bureau.

Besides lawsuits, spreading legal knowledge is also important work of the counselors.

"We provide legal advice on important projects and land deals for the township government and villagers and legal training," said Fu Shugen, a township counselor in Nanchang, capital of Jiangxi.

Counselors at governments of different levels have played an active role in explaining legislation, key policy-making and resolving complicated disputes, said an official with the Jiangxi Provincial Justice Department.

"They bridge the rural legal gap and contribute to maintaining social harmony and stability," the official said.

Township counselors have also been piloted in other provinces across the country.

In Enshi Tujia and Miao Autonomous Prefecture in Hubei Province, each township has set up a "legal clinic" for the public. Counselors also offer online consultation services for those deep in the mountains.

In the eastern coastal province of Zhejiang, 33,600 villages and communities had counselors at the end of 2015.

"The counselor system is a key move to promote law-based governance and will prompt government employees to enhance legal awareness," said Yan Sanzhong, a legal researcher at Jiangxi Normal University.