- Chief Executive Officer, Legal Aid Foundation, Taiwan
Attorney Han-Wei Chou
- CEO, Legal Aid Foundation, Taiwan
- Master of Laws (LL.M.), Ming Chuan University, Taiwan
- Bachelor of Laws (LL.B.), National Chengchi University, Taiwan
- Director, North Legal Aid Staff Attorneys Center, Legal Aid
- Associate Partner, Lin & Shih Law Firm
- Director, Department of Staff Attorneys, Taipei Branch, Legal Aid Foundation, Taiwan
- The 27th Board of Supervisors, Taipei Bar Association
- Lecturer, Orientation Training Institute, Taiwan Bar Association
- Vice Chairperson, Consumer Debt Clearance Committee, Taiwan Bar Association
- Executive Committee Member, Judicial Reform Foundation
- Consultant, Credit Card Debt Victims Self-Help Association
- Pro Bono Attorney, Taipei's Women Rescue Foundation
The Legal Aid Foundation has been offering legal aid services to the general public since July 1, 2004. Drastic social changes have occurred in Taiwan over the past 13 years, including the offshoring of domestic industries, escalating unemployment rates, low salaries, and low birth rates, and the legal aid system has protected the rights and interests of countless citizens, foreign workers, foreign spouses, indigenous peoples, women in hardship, victims of human trafficking, and card debtors throughout the process of social transition.
Yet, the Legal Aid Foundation's assistance for the disadvantaged should not stop at individuals. Renowned Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami once used a hard, high wall and an egg that breaks against the wall as a metaphor for the relationship between the government system and the people. At present, the economically disadvantaged in Taiwan's society are often exhausted just trying to make ends meet due to low salaries, unemployment, and debt. Even those that are employed are unable to make enough to satisfy the basic needs of food, clothing, living, and transportation, and the issues people encounter in different stages of life, from birth, senility, illness, to death, can become nightmares they cannot afford. Our society is lacking in fairness. When the social system is found to be systematically unfair, the Legal Aid Foundation is always on the side of the egg. As the most important link in the social safety net, the Legal Aid Foundation shoulders the responsibility of reform and of speaking to society on behalf of the disadvantaged so that flaws in the social system will no longer derogate from their dignity.
Taiwan is currently in an important phase of pension policy reform. Article 9 of the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights proclaims that everyone has the right to social security, meaning the State must ensure all individuals and families have the right to necessary medical services, basic housing, water, a hygiene environment, food, and basic education (General Comment No.19). In the face of the global prevalence of low salaries and poverty, the Legal Aid Foundation must reinstate its purpose of assisting the disadvantaged, and set out from the perspective of protecting human needs by uniting the government, legal community, and other social welfare institutions to provide integrated services or information for the disadvantaged. Only then can human rights issues encountered during the process of providing legal aid be resolved. This is the only way to truly care for and satisfy the needs of the disadvantaged, and also bring substantial change to their circumstances.
These tasks are not easy. The Legal Aid Foundation, which is currently in a phase of transition, requires the collective efforts and participation of every staff member, lawyer, and volunteer to satisfy these needs and to reaffirm its original mission of serving the disadvantaged.
Message from the CEO