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More foreigners receive free legal aid services

2014-09-02 14:46 China.org.cn Web Editor: Gu Liping

More foreigners have been receiving legal aid since a law amendment took effect last year requiring the government to provide free help to foreign criminals who face life sentences or the death penalty.

Legal aid authorities dealt with upward of 800 cases involving foreign offenders last year after the law took effect in January 2013, representing a 20 percent increase from the year before, according to the Ministry of Justice.

"That more foreigners are staying in China and the amended Criminal Procedure Law has enlarged the scope of our legal services to foreign defendants has contributed to the sharp increase in such cases," said Sang Ning, deputy director of the ministry's legal aid center.

Most of the cases feature violent crimes, including drug smuggling and trafficking, murder, rape, human trafficking and robbery, as well as financial crimes, and occured in border areas like Yunnan and Guangxi and coastal areas such as Zhejiang, Guangdong and Fujiang, according to Sang.

In terms of nationality, most offenders are from Africa, the Middle East, Southeast Asia and some European countries.

The number of foreigners staying in China for more than six months stands at about 680,000, according to the ministry, including those who have obtained Chinese "green cards".

Under the amended law, foreigners involved in civil cases can also receive free legal service if they are financially inadequate or their country has signed a judicial agreement with China.

The ministry said it has established a database of 20,000 qualified volunteer lawyers who can provide free legal aid to foreign clients. About one-third of them can communicate in English.

Sang said the ministry will emphasize having more free legal assistance in border areas such as Yunnan and the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, where a large number of foreigners are involved in cross-border crimes, including drug smuggling and trafficking or human trafficking.

"The key is to increase government financial support to legal aid and take effective measures to improve the quality of service," said Li Wei, a lawyer from the Beijing Lawyers Association.

(China Daily contributed to the story)

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