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Tong Lihua -Fighting for the Rights of the Vulnerable
    2007-05-02 16:04:17     CRIENGLISH.com


The Spring Festival several months ago was happy time for 38-year-old farmer, Zheng Jicheng.

With the help of a group of dedicated lawyers, Mr. Zheng and his fellow villagers in Dingzhou, North China's Hebei Province, retrieved most of the unpaid wages owed to them by a construction firm. Their money had been delayed for eight months.

The group of lawyers was led by Tong Lihua, a veteran lawyer. He is specialized in defending the rights of vulnerable groups, such as children and migrant workers. Zheng's case is only one of the hundreds of labor mistreatment incidents he is fighting.

Of course, the case kept Tong and his team extremely busy during the Spring Festival holiday season, but it was comforting enough for Tong Lihua to see the satisfied faces of migrant workers.

Tong Lihua was born in a rural family in Xinglong, Hebei Province. When he was a teenager, he dreamed of becoming a hero, using a powerful sword to rescue good guys and punish bad guys. When he grew up, he discovered that the law was mightier than the sword. He then chose to study law in the China University of Political Science of Law.

After graduation, he started his legal career. Soon he demonstrated his talent and sharp legal instinct. After two years' hard work, he was promoted to the role of deputy director.

The future of his career seemed to be brilliant. But one small case changed his commercial lawyer career.

A man who referred to himself as Mr. Wang came to his office. Wang was living in the countryside. He was owed 50,000 Yuan or 6,400 US dollars by a bankrupt business partner. He then sued the business partner and won the case. However, he couldn't get back the money because the partner had already been bankrupt!

What's even not worthwhile is that he had spent almost the same amount of money he was owed in suing the partner in different courts, hiring lawyers and lobbying the courts to implement his cases. Tong Lihua then realized that these people needed a wise lawyer to guide them in lawsuits so that they wouldn't have to spend so much money in vain.

According to the statistics, China's 120 million migrant workers are owed billions in delayed salaries, or so-called "back pay" from their employers, but in many cases may lack access to legal aid.

With this as his purpose, he opened a free legal hotline to help migrant workers, operating it in his spare time.

Mistreated workers soon discovered the service, and Tong's hotline was flooded with customers. Very soon, the Zhicheng Law Firm set up a team to provide free legal advice, in order to meet the rising demand.

Tong and his colleagues have since helped migrant workers retrieve more than 7.6 million Yuan or about 1 million US dollars in unpaid salaries and compensation for workplace injuries.

Tong Lihua became well-known in China.

As his experiences of helping migrant workers increased, Tong Lihua found out that in spite of the government's tremendous efforts in helping migrant workers obtain their rightful money from employers, many employers of migrant workers do not follow labor regulations and the situation with some migrant workers still didn't improve.
So there is still a long way to go.

Tong Lihua continues to work hard to help migrant workers. His dream of rescuing people in distress has come true - not with a sword, but with the best weapon - "the law". And he is using this powerful weapon to help as many people as possible.



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