From grassroots to lawmaker: Meet Liu Li who gives voice to the disadvantaged

Liu Li, a deputy to China's top legislature from Anhui Province, arrived in Beijing earlier this week for the delayed annual National People's Congress (NPC). 

The 40-year-old, one of the 742 female deputies, has been an NPC deputy since 2013.

Liu fought her way to the influential position from the grassroots. She was born in a poor rural family in Yingshang, a small county in Anhui. She quit school at the age of 14 and worked to support the education of her four siblings.

After leaving home penniless she went to Wuhan in central China's Hubei Province to work as a waitress and nanny, before settling in Xiamen in southeast China's coastal province of Fujian in 1999.

Liu found a job as an apprentice in a foot massage center. It was hard work, leading to blisters and swollen knuckles. She also had to deal with stereotypes of the massage business.

Her humble background didn't stop her charitable giving. Liu dropped out of school, but she didn't want others to be like her. From 2006 to 2010, she sponsored over 100 students.   

Liu's goodwill made her a national celebrity. She was called "the most beautiful foot masseuse in China" and later became a representative for migrant workers and the rural population in China's top legislative body.

In 2012, Liu was elected as a deputy to the local legislature in Xiamen and became an NPC deputy in 2013. A year later she moved back to Anhui, where she runs a foot massage parlor and a community center for seniors. She was elected as a deputy for the 13th NPC (2018-2022).

Many NPC deputies are ordinary citizens from all walks of life, she said, and they have a full-time job while working part-time for the legislature.

She said her own experiences help her understand the needs of migrant workers and the disadvantaged, and by extension she is able to better represent them.

Liu's proposals have focused on disadvantaged groups, such as the elderly, children and migrant workers. This year, she has made three proposals to the third session of the 13th NPC. The first concerns building community care centers for the elderly, the second regards improving the lives of left-behind senior citizens in the countryside and the third aims to introduce education in schools about child sexual abuse.

Li Dawei, director of the Eighth Procuratorate of the People's Procuratorate of Anhui Province, explained how one of Liu's earlier proposals was adopted.

In 2018, Liu made a proposal to the NPC to establish local "one-stop" help centers to investigate child sexual abuse cases. Li said prosecution authorities in Anhui's Dingyuan County took the lead and set up a juvenile legal education center to handle such cases and minimize the negative impact on children during investigations.

Now there are 15 such centers in the province.

Grassroots deputies can respond quickly to people's needs, Laurence Brahm, senior international research fellow at the Center for China and Globalization, said, and legislative committees that work throughout the year can make and amend new laws and regulations for the government to implement.

It's all about embracing change and being responsive, he added, rather than just being reactive to a political opponent.

According to official figures, the departments of the State Council, China's cabinet, took the lead in processing 6,319 proposals made by deputies in 2018, accounting for 88.5 percent of the total proposals and suggestions brought up during the Two Sessions.

Editor: Dang Zheng 

Copy editor: John Goodrich 

Chief editor: Chen Ran 

Senior consultant: Dr. Xia Jixuan

Producer: Si Nan

Supervisor: Pang Xinhua