Environmental law and litigation is a new concept for China and its people. This article follows the story of Zhang Jingjing, an environmental litigator, to highlight the difficulties and challenges that environmental litigators are facing in China. From China Dialogue:
[Zhang] is a lawyer working for the Centre for Legal Assistance of Pollution Victims (CLAPV) at the China University of Political Science and Law. Three decades of economic boom have created countless victims of pollution and there are very few organisations able to provide legal assistance. CLAPV is the only one doing so for no fee.
[…] “Actually, we have not had many genuine legal victories,” she says. But for her, the difficulties in litigation are not the main thing. […] It is actually the victims themselves who are hardest to deal with. “In China, the worst victims of pollution are rural residents,” she says, “and when they ask a lawyer for help, they only have one thing in mind: compensation.” When they first make contact, they put all their hopes in the lawyer, believing whatever they are told. But as complex legal cases grind on and compensation does not match the hoped-for amounts, Zhang becomes the object of complaints and blame.
Despite the difficulties, Zhang keeps up her hope and maintains her vision.
Zhang says that the foundations of CLAPV are shaky; all its operations rely on stable funding from overseas foundations. Although every year the centre trains a number of lawyers in handling environmental litigation, only ten are currently active in the field. Zhang sees the training of a cohort of environmental lawyers as the most pressing issue.