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Donations Sought for Legal Aid

The Ministry of Justice appealed to the public yesterday for increased financial support for China's legal aid system during the kick-off of a series of charity activities.

The activities include charity performances in Shenzhen, Zhejiang Province and Beijing in October, November and December respectively and campaigns to popularize the legal aid system.

The ministry's Legal Aid Center will also cooperate with the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China in issuing a credit card whose holders will be exempted from the first-year's annual fee in return for paying a smaller sum of money as a donation to the nation's legal aid foundation.

Legal aid provides legal assistance to people who cannot afford the services of lawyers. By the end of last June, nearly 2,700 legal aid institutions had been set up across China. They have provided service to more than 6.41 million people and handled more than 800,000 legal aid cases between 1997 and last year.

The lack of money is a major obstacle in the development of the legal aid system in China, ministry sources said.

"The government has increased financial support for legal aid services but the demand for legal aid is steadily increasing as China quickens its pace towards rule of law," said Zhang Fusen, minister of justice. "We still cannot meet the demand of the public for legal aid."

Yesterday's appeal followed the approval of China's first legal aid regulation. The regulation, which will take effect at the beginning of next month, stipulates that the government encourages donations from the public to boost the nation's legal aid service. The donation hotlines are (8610) 6711-9276, 6710-4390 and 6710-4391.

(China Daily August 7, 2003)

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