Qi Yunhui didn’t even graduate from middle school, but on a recent afternoon he addressed the Shenzhen Intermediate People’s Court with the confidence of a seasoned litigator.
When he came to Shenzhen in 2002, the fast talking native of China’s central province of Hubei worked in a leather shoe factory. Now, he is part of a new and growing breed of “citizens’ agents”, former workers offering cheap legal aid to fellow migrants involved in labor disputes.
In the past five years or so, these self-taught “barefoot” labor lawyers have proliferated, filling an important niche in a country where migrant workers are increasingly caught in a dilemma — they are encouraged by the leadership to know their rights, but lack effective, efficient channels to protect them.
Listen to NPR’s related story: Law Grants More Protection for Chinese Workers