Chinese American lawyers fights for civil rights in Los Angeles

Chinese New Year

Asian American lawyer and his way of celebrating Chinese New Year

As Spring Festival nears it close, it’s worth thinking how far Chinese Americans have come in the United States. Among them is Stewart Kwoh, who founded and runs the largest legal advocacy group for Asians in the U.S.

CGTN’s Phil Lavelle met with Kwoh for this glimpse at his life.

Los Angeles is Stewart’s home. He wasn’t born here, but he’s spent his life here, dedicating himself to helping those in need.

“I was always reminded that I was an immigrant, but also had roots here,” Kwoh said.

He’s a well-known civil right lawyer, helping immigrants who have been defrauded, had their wages taken, or been victimized by human trafficking. Asian Americans Advancing Justice is his personal quest to make the world a better place.

“I was head of the Asian students’ group when there were protests against the Cambodian war, when President Nixon lied and said the troops weren’t there,” he explained. “Some of my students got arrested, and so I bailed them out instead of applying for medical school.”

This sparked his interest in civil rights, so he started an office with just one person in 1983. Now, however, more than 100 people are on staff while over 800 volunteer.

Kwoh came from China when he was just two-years-old. His mother was an actress who was in more than 100 movies and TV shows, mainly American. But she was able to bridge both her new and native countries, working on Chinese movies as well.

According to Kwoh, his mother’s professional life in the U.S. was a weird juxtaposition. Despite teaching at the University of California, Berkley, the roles she received were mainly subservient positions like maids.

Even though she passed away many years ago, she’ll be on his mind as he welcomes in the Year of the Dog, which he’ll celebrate with his mother-in-law. A stickler for customs, even when it comes to bowing.

Kwoh was born in the Year of the Rat, meaning he should have spirit, wit, flexibility and vitality. Qualities he says he has, and come in handy as a lawyer.