"Now that we have signed the contracts, we've got a legal guarantee that really reassures us," a villager in Shenqiao village of Guoyang county, East China's Anhui province, said about the contracts he and 88 other villagers had just signed with a rabbit breeding cooperative.
Nowadays, legal guarantees like this have become commonplace in Shenqiao. The county government's effort to promote rule of law in the village has not only helped it eliminate poverty but also turned it into a democracy and rule of law demonstration village.
Legal counsel is the key
Four years ago when Wang Li and her husband intended to start a business in the village, they signed a three-year lease with a villager to rent 500-acres of land from him. Unfortunately, their business turned out to be loss-making for the first two years, prompting Wang to request a rent cut from the villager who refused her request. A dispute arose.
After learning the dispute, Tang Fenglong, a lawyer who is the village's legal counsel, voluntarily arranged a meeting for the two sides to settle their dispute. With his solid legal expertise, Tang finally persuaded the villager to lower the rent. "I've never thought about tuning to a lawyer in my life," said Wang cheerfully.
In fact, under a legal service procurement program launched by the county government, a legal counsel is appointed to each village to address villagers' legal problems. Apart from mediating disputes, they also hold consulting activities once every half-month and lectures on various topics every month.
In another case, Tang successfully dissuaded unqualified villagers in Shenqiao from applying for the benefits designed to support truly impoverished villagers.
As part of the county's effort to promote rule of law in rural areas, two special supermarkets were opened in Shenqiao. One is called a lawyer supermarket while the other is a people’s mediator supermarket. Villagers can select lawyers or mediators in the two supermarkets as all the necessary information about the legal professionals is available there.
Aimed at solving a homestead dispute with his neighbor, Luo Fujun, who initially planned to resort to village officials, decided to give the lawyer supermarket a try. To his surprise, a lawyer arrived at his home soon after receiving his phone call, and efficiently settled the dispute by explaining the relevant legal provisions for the two sides.
The lawyer supermarket has now grown into a supermarket chain where villagers can find notaries, legal workers and mediators in addition to lawyers.
Moreover, registered impoverished villagers can enjoy legal aid and notary services for free.
Apart from enhancing legal services, the village also invented a scoring system to encourage villagers to earn their living through labor. Under the system, villagers can exchange the points they earn for necessities at a special supermarket.
As a result of this comprehensive effort, all the households in Shenqiao had shaken off poverty by 2019.