March 11, 2021
By Claire Andrews
In September 2020, Vermont Law School's U.S.-Asia Partnerships for Environmental Law (PEL) and its partners in China—the Environmental Law Clinic of Research Institute of Environmental Law at Wuhan University and Friends of Nature—began recruiting the third cohort of Chinese Environmental Mission Scholars. From October 21 to December 26, the 15 Chinese scholars completed four courses that PEL created for the Environmental Mission Scholars program.
The mission scholars worked collaboratively in groups, conducted site visits, and filed open government information requests in China. They sharpened their communication skills, learned different channels to advocate environmental policies, and learned from the experiences of the guest lecturers, who are leaders in the environmental field. Throughout the spring semester, the mission scholars—under the supervision of experienced environmental law experts—will now each provide 200 hours of pro bono legal advocacy services to local environmental NGOs in China. PEL will support these efforts.
The annual Environmental Mission Scholars program aims to strengthen environmental governance and rule of law in China. Scholars help build the capacity of environmental practitioners to effectively engage in environmental legal practices, mainly through utilizing China’s recently enacted provisions on environmental public interest litigation, the eco-environmental damages compensation system, and other public participation tools. PEL received more than 120 applications, and the partners selected 15 highly motivated young environmental advocates with Chinese law backgrounds. Some are practicing attorneys in law firms, some are graduate students working in law clinics, and some are practitioners at NGOs. Read on to learn more about them.
Hao Gu (古皓）
Hao is a graduate of both Southwest University of Political Science and Law, and Sun Yat-sen University. He worked at King & Wood Mallesons law firm as a corporate legal intern and has some experiencing working on environmental compliance and environmental public interest litigation. He also worked at the Wildlife Conservation Society in their Counter Wildlife Trafficking program. He applied for the Mission Scholars program to continue to find innovative ways to advance China’s environmental law practices.
Yiyuan has a graduate degree from Wuhan University. She currently works at the Qinghai Sanjianyuan Environmental Protection Association doing policy advocacy work, and previously worked for the Nature Conservation Study Group.
Danmei earned her law degree from Fujian Police College. She is seeking to promote the development of environmental civil public interest litigation and fight for environmental protection. She currently works as an assistant lawyer at Beijing Yingke Law Firm in Xiamen. She has done some pro bono work on an Environmental Public Interest Litigation (EPIL) case. Because of her interest in environmental protection, she helped set up a collaboration between the Fuzhou Yingke Law Firm and the local civil society organization Fuzhou Green Home to provide pro bono legal services on environmental matters.
As a student, Fang worked with a student group to organize public benefit activities and to create volunteer opportunities for other students in public service work. She is a graduate of Shanxi Datong University and is from Datong, Shanxi Province. She aims to use the knowledge she gains from the Mission Scholars program to advance environmental policy advocacy and public interest litigation in China.
Lizhu hopes to use her time as an Environmental Mission Scholar to protect wetlands and biodiversity in China. She is a graduate of East China University of Political Science and Law and is currently working towards a degree in ecological law from Southwest Forestry University. Lizhu believes that EPIL cases are the best method of environmental protection; she aims to become an environmental litigation lawyer once she completes her graduate degree and the Mission Scholars program.
Ke, who hails from Gongyi, Henan Province, is seeking to protect the rights of Chinese people. She is a graduate from the North China University of Technology in Beijing, where she studied intellectual property law. Her undergraduate degree is from the University of Finance and Law in Henan Province. Ke has been working in the legal profession for ten years, having previously worked as a prosecutor.
Degao hopes to promote China’s ecological governance through environmental public interest litigation. A graduate of Northwest Minzu University, Degao currently works at the Wuhan Xingche Environmental Protection Center, executing their legal projects.
Huanhuan previously interned in the Huanggang City Procuratorate, where she gained valuable insights on the challenges in bringing EPIL cases. She is currently a graduate student at the Research Institute of Environmental Law at Wuhan University and has joined the Environmental Law Clinic there. After completing the Mission Scholars program, Huanhuan plans to find work as an attorney for an environmental civil society organization.
Weihong is hoping to contribute to the development of environmental law in China. Currently, she studies at the Southwest University of Political Science and Law. Through her studies and the Mission Scholars program, she is learning how to deal with the pollution, domestic sewage, and the compensation system for environmental damages.
Xin is from Ordos City, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. He received his undergraduate degree from Wuhan University of Technology. Xin is interning at the Wuhan Xingche Environmental Protection Center where he assists with handling EPIL cases. Following the completion of the Mission Scholars program, he hopes to become an environmental lawyer.
Xinhui hopes to use EPIL to combat pollution problems across China. Xinhui is currently a student at the Research Institute of Environmental Law (RIEL) at Wuhan University where she is studying the basic theories of environmental law. She hopes to gain more practical experience through the Mission Scholars program. Upon completion of the program and graduation from RIEL, Xinhui hopes to become an environmental attorney at a firm or environmental civil society organization.
Chenyu is completing her final year at Fudan University. She hopes to use the education provided by the Mission Scholars program to further her doctorate degree. She hopes to eventually become a judge in China, and to continue to fight for environmental justice across the country while promoting more sustainable food systems.
Hongyi received his undergraduate law degree from Wuhan University and is currently a master student of environmental law at RIEL. His focus is on environmental litigation and compulsory environmental liability insurance. Following the Mission Scholars program, Hongyi wants to further his environmental education with courses on environmental law and policy. He ultimately aims to establish a corporation that would provide environmental protection compliance solutions for other corporations.
Xitong graduated from Southwest Forestry University. He currently works at a law firm and hopes to eventually become an environmental public interest lawyer and teach environmental law upon completion of a doctorate degree. Xitong has previously participated in research activities with Southwest Forestry University, having conducted field investigations at Erhai Lake in Dali. There, he visited villages and towns, interviewing government departments and holding a forum with environmental protection experts.
Zhiqi is currently an environmental law graduate student at Guangdong University of Foreign Studies. He has not yet participated in environmental work and is hoping to use the Mission Scholars program to further his education and gain meaningful environmental law experience.