China will introduce free legal aid services to more people in need and improve access to these services, an instruction issued Monday by the central authorities said.
The directive, focusing on perfecting the legal assistance system, was jointly issued by the general offices of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and the State Council and ordered that legal assistance should address livelihood issues of people in poverty.
All provincial governments must expand coverage of legal assistance to include labor protection, marriage, food and drug safety, education and medical services, vice justice minister Zhao Dacheng said, quoting the instruction.
The existing coverage of legal assistance includes helping citizens with financial difficulties apply for state compensation, basic living allowance, or to claim payment for their work, among other items.
The instruction identified key social groups to be covered by legal assistance, including rural migrant workers, those who were laid-off, the elderly, the disabled and other groups.
It also promised easier access to legal aid services by offering a telephone hot-line (12348), a consulting website and building more legal aid stations in prominent locations.
Legal assistance will also benefit more people facing criminal charges in order to play greater role in defending human rights, said the instruction. Such services will be offered to those who intend to appeal but without financial means.
The governments will also procure more services and support social organizations' participation in offering legal assistance, Zhao said.