Nicola Macbean is the Executive Director of The Rights Practice, a United Kingdom–based nongovernmental organisation that supports those working for human rights. Nicola has worked closely with Chinese lawyers and other human rights defenders and has implemented projects supporting civil society and the promotion of human rights and criminal justice.

China’s Ratification of the ILO Forced Labour Conventions: A Hollow Gesture?

There was a lukewarm welcome from the international community to China’s announcement in April 2022 that it would ratify the International Labour Organization’s two forced labour conventions: the Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29) and the Abolition of Forced Labour Convention, 1957 (No. 105). Director-General of the International Labour Organization (ILO) Guy Ryder’s statement that […]

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Accidental Activists: The Resistance of the ‘709’ Wives

The crackdown of 9 July 2015 saw hundreds of lawyers and legal activists called in by the police or official lawyers’ associations for questioning. While many were released in a matter of hours or days, a number disappeared into China’s system of ‘residential surveillance in a designated location’. In this essay, Nicola Macbean details how the wives of these lawyers have coped with the detention of their husbands and how they have been experimenting with new forms of campaigning that draw strength from Chinese tradition.

The Mental Health Costs of Repression

Chinese civil society activists and rights-protection lawyers are experiencing unprecedented levels of repression. The relentless pressure, as well as the acts of police violence and torture, has made many fearful of the consequences of their work. This is, inevitably, taking a toll on the mental health of activists. While psychological counselling services in China have expanded in recent years, most counsellors are reluctant to work with politically sensitive clients. This essay examines the need for the human rights community in China to develop the skills to address the mental health challenges of activism.

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