Law Professor Wang Canfa, 48, was presented with the Figures of Green China in 2005 award for his work in environmental protection through a medium that he knows best, the law.
Wang is a law professor with the China University of Political Science and Law. In 1998, he established the Center for Legal Assistance for Pollution Victims in Beijing and a hotline providing free legal advice to pollution victims, a first for non-governmental operations in the legal field.
In the past six years, the center has handled 8,490 phone calls, received 477 visitors and won nearly 80 pollution cases. Since 2001, the center has trained 269 lawyers and 170 judges and established a nationwide network of lawyers working for the protection of the environment.
Wang actively develops the study of Chinese environmental legal issues and has proposed various improvements. He has presided over or taken part in the drafting and discussion of nine laws and regulations on environmental protection, including the Law on the Protection of Nature Reserves, the Law on the Prevention and Control of Water Pollution (Revised Draft), the Law on a Recycling Economy, the Interpretation of the Supreme People's Court on Relevant Issues Concerning the Application of Laws for Handling Environmental Pollution Cases, and Regulation on Public Participation in Environmental Protection.
In addition to advising and representing victims of pollution in court, Wang has been known to cover court and other administrative fees on behalf of his clients. Since the center was established, he has done so on more than 70 occasions.
On winning the award, Wang said: "Green China needs more legal cultivation. I am willing to work hard to that end.
"But the hard work I've put in over the years has aged me. Still, I am happy to see that my efforts have paid off."
More important, he is pleased to see that his center has set an example of how legal channels can be used to protect environmental rights.
Wang also attributed all his achievements to the collective efforts of his center: "Over the past six years, more than 200 volunteers have helped us and have made great contributions to our cause."
He added: "We hope to raise public awareness of the environment, laws and rights by encouraging the public to bring lawsuits against polluting enterprises. The more victims step forward, the more environmental awareness will be raised. With tremendous social pressure, polluting enterprises must obey environmental protection laws."
As a non-profit organization, the center is always in need of funds. But Wang is optimistic about the center's future: "These things take time. The more work we do, the more organizations and individuals will take notice of what we stand for, and I'm sure they will be prepared to help us out financially to develop the work of the center, and for the environmental cause of the country."
(China.org.cn by Li Jingrong, February 20, 2006)