Xing Long Village in Southern China's Yunnan Province was once a peaceful farming community. But when a factory dumped 5,000 tons of chromium 6 into a nearby reservoir, cancer rates in the village skyrocketed. The environmental damage and human suffering caused by the illegal disposal of chemicals has been devastating and largely unnoticed.

However, an NGO in Beijing 3,000 miles away aims to put responsibility back on the factory. And a new amendment to Chinese law is giving them hope. The law states:

“In instances where the public interest is threatened, such as environmental pollution or violation of consumers’ rights, relevant organs or social organizations may file suit at the People’s Courts.”

Now, the NGO has teamed up with pro bono lawyers to represent the environment and the town in a public interest law suit. It will be the first time in Chinese history a Chinese court will hear an NGO in a class action case.

While they aim to hold the factory responsible, they also hope to show other grassroots organizations in China — that they too, have power in rule of law to help their communities.

This is their story.

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