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New Year Speech 2016
2015 has been a significant year in growth and development for the Wider Center, and thus I would like to use this opportunity to share some of our stories and achievements.

As 2015 came to an end, Wider had a company of 437 volunteer lawyers working with us; this is an increase of 181 lawyers from the previous year. Since 2014, the percentage of lawyers providing legal services had a significant increase from 32% to 66%. This year we had 289 lawyers from 104 law firms volunteering their services at Wider; together they have contributed 4971 billable hours and took on 112 public welfare cases. Compared with the 1565 billable hours of 2014, the growth at the center is undeniable.

One of the most significant achievements at the Wider Center in 2015 was the restructuring of the organization from a non-government legal support group to a professional organization that focused on providing legal aid to the community. I believe this change will have a profound impact on the future of Wider.

The most notable project for Wider in 2015 was the launch of the Fresh Rain Project; an education program aimed to popularize basic legal knowledge for over 150,000 elementary and middle school students in the Futian District.

Fresh Rain is guided by the principle of educating our young citizens to be proactive when utilizing the law for the betterment of their future. This is a different approach than the usual drill for citizens to practice obedience to the law without understanding their own rights. The Fresh Rain curriculum we have developed focuses on “legal consciousness”, “critical thinking”, “public participation”, and “constitutional rights”; the goal is to encourage students to be more independent and understand the role the justice system played in their daily life. This project gained positive recognition and support from the Futian District government, the Society and Working Committee, the Justice Bureau, the Education Bureau, and the Youth League Committee. By the end of 2015, about 200 volunteer lawyers participated in the Fresh Rain project and took on 235 class groups with more than 10,000 students.

This year Wider have also collaborated with Futian District Workers Union and the Nanshan District Workers Union to develop the “Round Table Action” and the “Rainbow Action Programs”; these projects focus on labor payment term negotiations for workers. Wider also took on a significant number of cases dealing with worker’s rights regarding occupational hazards. As we are expanding our services, Wider recognizes obstacles we face regarding limited resources and the limitations for “obtaining legal rights” for our clients. Though we are working hard to find solutions via progressive development in the justice system, much improvement is needed for the current state of collective bargaining system. The average individual laborer is already at a disadvantaged position when it comes to obtaining the rights they deserve from their employers; only by uniting together with his fellow laborers do they have a fighting chance at the negotiation table. 36 volunteer lawyers has been assisting labor workers by collaborating with the general workers union and the sub-district workers union.

Wider have been gaining increasing amount of recognition through projects like Fresh Rain, Round Table Action, Rainbow Program, Overbearing Clause Annihilation, Legal Body Check for NGO, etc. We are proud to say that Wider has been certified as a Level 5A Social Organization in 2015. This honor proves that our society needs more than legal assistance for the disadvantaged, but also legal professionals with grander visions for promoting the rule of law in our society.

Shenzhen is a central commercial hub in southern China, thus it is pleasantly surprising how more and more commercial lawyers are willing to take on public interest cases. We believe this is because the spirit of the public service is essential for all legal professionals. The pursuit of justice, anticipating society’s development, and the determination to change the world for the better is deeply embedded in every lawyer’s DNA. This kind of responsibility comes from the care we have for our city, our country, the community we live in, and the people in our lives. Regardless of how challenging this path to strengthen our justice legal may be, we truly believe that the public interest spirit will guide us throughout the journey to greatness.

 I want to take this opportunity to say thank you to all our volunteer lawyer and their law firms, government officials, and committee members that helped and supported Wider Center in the past year. We will continue with our efforts in 2016!

Happy New Year!