Asia

15 June 2017

PILnet first became involved in Asia in 2000 when it included lawyers from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Mongolia as International Fellows. Since then, PILnet has included 125 lawyers as international fellows, with about half from Asia. At the core of the original PILnet International Fellows Program is a movement to promote public interest legal advocacy in Asia. As their efforts matured, they--as well as other likeminded partners--continued to seek PILnet’s support and guidance, resulting in PILnet’s first slate of activities in China in 2007 and the establishment of a Beijing office in 2008. Shortly thereafter, PILnet established an office in Hong Kong in 2013.

In addition to strengthening the effectiveness of public interest lawyers in Asia through fellowships, PILnet strengthens pro bono culture around the region through our Forums, Pro Bono Clearinghouse Workshops, and other activities. Our first annual Asia Pro Bono Forum was held in Hong Kong in 2014, which attracted over 150 lawyers, NGOs and policy makers from around the region to discuss how pro bono can be better used to support social justice needs. Since then we have held Forums in Bangkok (2015) and Bali (2016). In 2017, PILnet will be putting on a Global Forum in Budapest, Hungary (October 16 to 19, 2017). After 10 European Forums, 3 Asia Forums, and 1 Russia Forum, the 2017 PILnet Global Forum looks to draw from the experience of all regions. By bringing together for the first time expertise and networks from all the regions where we’ve worked in: Europe, Asia, Russia, Middle-East, Africa, Latin America, we hope to create a broader platform for cross-region discussions and fertilization of ideas to meet some of the world’s most pressing social justice issues today.

Through the International Fellows Program, Forums,Pro Bono Clearinghouse Workshops, and other activities, PILnet has successfully engaged with local partners to build pro bono and lasting impact throughout the region.

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China

PILnet first became involved in China in 2003 when it included two Chinese lawyers as International Fellows. Among PILnet’s Fellows is the core of a movement to promote public interest advocacy in China. As their efforts matured, they--as well as other like-minded partners--continued to seek PILnet’s support and guidance, resulting in PILnet’s first slate of in-country activities in 2007 and the establishment of a Beijing office in 2008.

PILnet’s work in China has three core themes: promoting the public interest career track among law graduates, in part through the China National Fellows program; strengthening public interest networks across China, especially in the provinces; and developing pro bono practice within law firms.

 

Hong Kong

PILnet established an office in Hong Kong in December 2013 and received Section 88 charitable status in December 2016. Our work in Hong Kong has four core themes:

Developing pro bono practice within law firms

PILnet Hong Kong encourages lawyers from commercial and litigation practices to engage in pro bono work through our Hong Kong Pro Bono Clearinghouse – a “pro bono matchmaking” platform. From 2014 until early 2017, PILnet has helped find pro bono lawyers for nearly 100 NGOs in Hong Kong through the Clearinghouse.

Building the legal capacity of charities and social enterprises

PILnet puts on workshops on a range of topics in public interest law, such as Section 88 applications and NGOs and Criminal Law, in order to educate lawyers interested in engaging in pro bono work and to educate non-profit initiatives interested in the topic. Legal capacity of charities and social enterprises are also built through the Pro bono Clearinghouse.

Promoting the public interest career track among law students

PILnet has worked with law schools in Hong Kong to develop programs to introduce students to public interest law. A new initiative that PILnet is starting in 2017 is a student competition amongst law school students in Hong Kong asking them to look to see how the law can be used to address social justice issues in Hong Kong. The participants in the competition will design projects to use the law to address a social justice issue of their choice and the winner of the competition will receive a grant to implement the project.  

Strengthening community legal services in Hong Kong

PILnet partnered with DLA Piper, an international law firm, to conduct a research project on the accessibility and quality of community legal services in Hong Kong. This project was motivated by the knowledge that the law is failing many of those who need it most: while some low income people in Hong Kong can access free legal services, there is a wide gap between those who qualify for legal aid and those who can afford to pay themselves. The research, culminating in This Way - Finding Community Legal Assistance in Hong Kong, provides an analysis of the problem, and points the way to a solution.

In 2016, PILnet started a project with Social Ventures Hong Kong (SVhk), a venture philanthropic organisation that incubates and invests in social startups that address urban challenges in Hong Kong through sustainable and innovative business solutions. With SVhk, Convoy Financial Services Limited, and a number of NGOs, we have started designing a community service centre, the Convoy Life Investment Centre, in Sham Shui Po, that will have a multi-disciplinary team of professionals providing advice to low income residents of that neighbourhood on a variety of issues ranging from health and legal, to financial planning, grief management and child development.

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