Farmer spends 16 years studying law by himself so he could sue a powerful chemical firm for ‘polluting his land’ – and he wins the first round
A Chinese farmer has spent 16 years studying law by himself so he could sue a chemical company for allegedly polluting his land.
Wang Enlin, who had just three years of education, has won the first instance in a high-profile case against state-owned Qihua Group, reported the People’s Daily Online.
Although Qihua Group, whose assets exceed two billion yuan (£233 million), has appealed against the decision, the elderly man said he is determined to seek justice for himself and his neighbours who could no longer grow healthy crops on their contaminated land.
Mr Wang, who is in his 60s, lives in the Yushutun village on the outskirts of Qiqihar in the Heilongjiang Province, according to People’s Daily Online, which cited China Youth Daily.
The man said he would forever remember the year of 2001 when his land was flooded by the toxic waste discharged by Qihua Group.
It was the eve of the Lunar New Year, and Mr Wang was playing cards and making dumplings with his neighbours. All of sudden, they realised that the house they were in was flooded by the wastewater from the nearby Qihua factory.
According to the report, a government document from 2001 claimed that the affected farmland ‘can not be used for a long time’ due to the pollution.
Between 2001 to 2016, it has been suggested that Qihua continued to dump hazardous waste into the village, whose residents rely upon agriculture for a living.
The company produced polyvinyl chloride and released 15,000 to 20,000 tons of chemical waste every year, the report said.
Qihua has also reportedly created a 71-acre wasteland with calcium carbide residue and a 478-acre pond with its liquid waste.
In 2001, Mr Wang wrote a letter to the Land Resources Bureau of Qiqihar to complain about the pollution Qihua had brought to his village.
He said while dealing with the local officials, he was repeatedly asked to produce evidence to prove that the village’s land had been polluted.
Mr Wang told a reporter: ‘I knew I was in the right, but I did not know what law the other party had broken or whether or not there was evidence.’ He received the interview in his small home which he spent 50 yuan (£5.8) per month renting from the village’s authority.
As a result, Mr Wang decided to study law by himself, an endeavour he would carry on pursuing for the next 16 years.
The farmer, who had dropped out of primary school at the third grade, started reading through a dozen law books with the help of a dictionary.
At the time, he did not have money to buy the books, so he spent day after day reading the books at the local book store and copying the relevant information by hand, according to the man. In return, he would give bags of free corn to the shopkeeper for letting him stay there.
Not only that, he also used the legal knowledge he had learnt to help his neighbours gather evidence. Their farms had also been polluted by Qihua Group, said Mr Wang.
In 2007, a Chinese law firm specialised in handling pollution-related cases started providing free legal advice to Mr Wang and his neighbours. They also agreed to help the villagers file petition to the court.
However due to unspecified complications, the court only began processing Mr Wang and his neighbours’ case in 2015 – eight years after the original petition had been made, People’s Daily Online reported.
Thanks to the evidence Mr Wang had gathered in the 16 years, Mr Wang and his neighbours apparently won the first instance.
The Angangxi District Court of Qiqihar ruled that the families in Yushutun village would receive financial compensation from Qihua Group amounting 820,000 yuan (£96,000). The date of the first instance was not revealed in the report.
Qihua Group has appealed against the court’s decision. The case is being processed at the Angangxi District Court as of writing.
A determined Mr Wang told the reporter: ‘We will certainly win. Even if we lose, we will continue to battle.’