Wang Enlin, an elderly farmer who left school when he was 10 years old and taught himself law armed with a single textbook and dictionary, makes for an unlikely eco-warrior. Yet the 64-year-old is determined to reap justice as he readies for a fresh battle in his war with a subsidiary of China's largest chemical firm, which he accuses of polluting and destroying his farmland. "In China, behind every case of pollution is a case of corruption," he said of his mission to bring Qihua Chemical Group (also known as Heilongjiang Haohua Chemical) to account. Wang and others villagers from northeast Heilongjiang province have sued Qihua accusing it of contaminating their soil, rendering it untenable for crops, in a case that has stretched on for more than 16 years. This February, Wang and his self-styled "Senior Citizen Environmental Protection Team" earned a rare victory when a local court ordered Qihua to clear up their chemical waste site -- adjacent to the farmers' land -- and pay a total of 820,000 yuan (USD 120,000) to compensate for lost harvests in 55 affected rural households. But that ruling was overturned on appeal, and Wang is now gearing up to fight back on another day in court. "We will absolutely win.
The law is on our side," Wang told AFP. His case is testing the possibilities of a national environmental protection law revised in 2015. The legislation was widely touted as a way to open the courts to public interest environmental damage lawsuits, but has been criticised for poor implementation. Qihua is a subsidiary of the state-owned ChemChina, the country's largest chemical enterprise. It specialises in crude oil processing and petroleum products. Wang's battle began in 2001, when a village committee leased 28.5 hectares (70 acres) to Qihua for use as a chemical waste dumping ground without the villagers' consent. The villagers claim that the company failed to take proper pollution control measures. Wang says he felt compelled to teach himself law after realising he lacked the knowledge or resources to take on the might of an industrial giant. China had just emerged from its Great Famine when Wang left school: "It didn't matter at the time whether you got an education," he said. "It wouldn't change your fate.
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