Rights Defence Lawyers as Dissidents in Contemporary China

By Chongyi, Feng; Hawes, Colin et al. | International Journal of China Studies, December 2012 | Go to article overview

Rights Defence Lawyers as Dissidents in Contemporary China


Chongyi, Feng, Hawes, Colin, Ming, Gu, International Journal of China Studies


Abstract

Rights defence lawyers in contemporary China have attracted tremendous attention. Their supporters take them as a leading force for social and political change toward justice, the rule of law and democracy, whereas the hardliners of the ruling Chinese Communist Party regard them as a dangerous hostile force of political dissent. In this article, we will trace the resumption and development of the legal profession in China since the 1980s after its forced disappearance for three decades. Then we will explore the emergence of a group of "rights defence lawyers" in the context of recent economic, social and political changes. The article will end with a discussion about the potential role of rights defence lawyers in China's social and political transformation. We argue that the name "rights defence lawyer" reflects the current politically charged environment for the legal profession in China and the dual identities of socially concerned lawyers as both legal professionals and rights advocates. We also argue that lawyers in China become political dissidents when defending clients whose rights are violated by the party-state and power holders, and that, in response to political persecution, rights defence lawyers have interacted with other lawyers, other rights activists and the wider society to advance their causes of bringing about justice, the rule of law and democratic political reforms in China. We therefore identify a connection between their lawsuits, including their media campaigns as an extension of those lawsuits, and the rise of rights consciousness and quest for the rule of law in China.

Keywords: China, rights defence lawyers, rights defence movement, dissidents, rule of law

JEL classification: K14, K40, P26, P37

(ProQuest: ... denotes non-US-ASCII text omitted.)

1. Introduction

On 31st July 2012 the overseas edition of the People's Daily published an influential and controversial article "What Are the Real Challenges for China", listing "rights defence lawyers, underground religions, dissidents, Internet opinion leaders and vulnerable groups" as the five major subversive forces in China.1 This analysis from the mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) calls to mind the "Black Five Categories", namely Landlords, Rich Peasants, Counter-revolutionaries, Bad Elements and Rightists, designated by the party-state as the major categories of "class enemies" during the Maoist Era. Who are these "rights defence lawyers" (weiquan lüshi ...) in China? Why do they top this list of subversive forces? In this article, we will trace the resumption and development of the legal profession in China since the 1980s after its forced disappearance for three decades. Then we will explore the emergence of a group of "rights defence lawyers" in the context of recent economic, social and political changes. The article will end with a discussion about the potential role of rights defence lawyers in China's social and political transformation. We argue that the name "rights defence lawyer" reflects the current politically-charged environment for the legal profession in China and the dual identities of socially concerned lawyers as both legal professionals and rights advocates. We also argue that lawyers in China become political dissidents when defending clients whose rights are violated by the party-state and power holders, and that, in response to political persecution, rights defence lawyers have interacted with other lawyers, other rights activists and the wider society to advance their causes of bringing about justice, the rule of law and democratic political reforms in China. We therefore identify a connection between their lawsuits, including their media campaigns as an extension of those lawsuits, and the rise of rights consciousness and quest for the rule of law in China.

2. The Re-birth of the Legal Profession in China

The modern profession of lawyers was introduced in China during the Late Qing when the Chinese started to "learn from the West". …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Rights Defence Lawyers as Dissidents in Contemporary China
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.