Voluntary lawyers visiting a community to provide on-site consultancy and disseminate legal materials to local residents. ©

Guancheng District Legal Aid Centre, Zhengzhou, Henan Province

In August 2017, the British Council completed a major project designed to support China in its efforts to create a fairer society.

The China-EU Access to Justice Programme supported the Chinese legal aid agency to further develop their state legal aid system and enhance access to justice for disadvantaged groups and people living in remote and isolated parts of the country. 

This support was achieved by drawing on the expertise and experience of legal aid policy-makers and managers, legal and judicial professionals, community-based organisations, and academics working on access to justice and access to law from both China and the European Union. 

At a national level, activities focused on encouraging professional exchange and dialogue between China and the EU. This involved the development of the legislative and policy framework for legal aid in China which included Quality Assurance, Legislative Development and Early Intervention Approaches. 

The programme also supported institutional and professional development initiatives with legal aid centres, lawyers, paralegals and community volunteers all the way through to township and street/village level in Henan and Shanxi provinces. Here, efforts were made to strengthen the coordination of legal aid services in order to provide greater access and outreach for legal assistance.

In just one year, the number of legal aid cases in the pilot districts nearly doubled from 1,784 in 2015 to 3,188 in 2016. The greatest number of cases fell within the categories of workers’ rights and labour disputes for men, and traffic accidents and divorce for women. 

Over 50 per cent of those surveyed noted that efficiency had significantly improved. To read further highlights regarding the success of the programme, read this report.

The China-EU Access to Justice Programme received €5.3 million worth of EU funding.