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.

China’s Industrial Heritage without History

Twenty years after the Chinese authorities decided to radically reform the country’s state industry, where does public memory of the nation’s socialist industrialisation reside? What aspects of the socialist path to modernity do officials or private citizens monumentalise, if any at all?

Slaving Away: The ‘Black Brick Kilns Scandal’ Ten Years On

In the spring and summer of 2007, bands of aggrieved parents roamed the Chinese countryside looking for their missing children, whom they learned had been kidnapped and sold as slaves to illegal kilns. Thanks to the involvement of Chinese media and civil society, the so-called ‘black brick kilns incident’ becameone of the most remarkable stories of popular mobilisation and resistance in contemporary China. Now that ten years have passed, are there any lessons that we can draw from this moment in history?

What Future Is There for Human Rights Lawyering in China?

In the aftermath of the latest wave of repression, Chinese human rights lawyers have started to reflect on their past successes and failures. They also began to express anxiety, frustration, and confusion about their work. Ultimately all the soul searching boils down to one question: is there a future for human rights lawyering in China as we know it? To answer this question, this essay analyses the practices of human rights lawyering, and examines the circumstances in which socio-legal mobilisation may fail or succeed.

Making Class and Place in Contemporary China

Rural-to-urban migrants in China are often depicted as being poor, uncivilised, and having a lower level of ‘human quality’ than those with urban household registration. Policy-makers carefully strategise in order to produce rural-to-urban migrants as a homogeneous category. However, the use of this term obscures more than it illuminates, as it homogenises complex social realities.

Collective Bargaining in China is Dead: The Situation is Excellent

As the Chinese government under Xi Jinping has turned in a markedly anti-worker direction, attempts to establish a genuine collective bargaining system in China have been smothered. If collective bargaining is dead, what might Chinese workers and their allies advocate? The time might be ripe to shift our focus to a demand for a rapid expansion of universal social services, not least for a universal basic income.

What Does Wukan Have to Do With Democracy?

In September 2011, the village of Wukan in Eastern Guangdong province became the centre of a media storm and made international headlines for its violent protests against the illegal sale of land by their established, and corrupt, village elite. Village leaders had taken it upon themselves to sell large chunks of village land without consulting […]

Migrant Labour and the Sustainability of China’s Welfare System

Social welfare in China has emerged in recent years as a major cause of migrant workers’ discontent and collective action. Reforms of the social welfare system in China since 2002 have expanded coverage and protection of vulnerable populations, but structural problems remain for migrant workers to access and receive the full benefits of the social […]

The Neglected Side of the Coin: Legal Hegemony, Class Consciousness, and Labour Politics in China

Since China’s opening up in 1978, the Chinese party-state has put great effort into reforming the labour law system. During the 1990s, the 1992 Trade Union Law, 1994 Labour Law, and the 1995 Arbitration Law were enacted. In 2001 and 2004, the revised Trade Union Law and Provisions on Minimum Wage were promulgated respectively. In […]

Chinese Workers and the Law: Misplaced Trust?

One fascinating question concerning labour activism in contemporary China regards the attitude of Chinese migrant workers towards the law. In recent years, much has been written about the ‘rights awakening’ (quanli de juexing) of Chinese workers. But what kind of rights are we talking about? Do they respond to an entirely subjective concept of justice […]

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