Migrant Access to Civil Justice in Beijing
46 Pages Posted: 5 Oct 2007 Last revised: 12 Apr 2012
China's recent economic and social reforms have led to two seemingly contrary developments: an unsanctioned flood of rural-to-urban migration and a state-sponsored expansion of the use of legal institutions. This paper examines one aspect of the interaction between the two - specifically, how access to China's courts for Beijing's migrants is brokered through legal aid. Although migrants are denied many other social services in Beijing, a variety of legal aid providers have sprung up in the city to increase migrant access to courts. These providers range from government-funded offices to grassroots migrant-led initiatives. Drawing upon case materials and interviews with Beijing's legal aid providers and migrants, this article argues that the inability of migrants to redress their grievances is affected not only by the inherent deficiencies in China's legal system, but also by the limitations of the legal aid providers themselves. Due to the various providers' finite resources and differing reasons for providing legal aid, the impact and effects of legal aid vary widely, both in terms of the services offered to migrant clients and in terms of its impact on Chinese legal consciousness. Despite the difficulties legal aid providers and migrants face, the article concludes that the overnight development of migrant-focused legal aid has aided migrants in redressing grievances and demonstrated to the Chinese public that the law can and should be used to address their grievances.
Keywords: China, legal aid, justice, migrants, mingong
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