Scholars have recently critiqued human rights as a purely Eurocentric construct that has failed to find wider appeal and is now on the decline. Some cite the apparent success of China’s repressive political regime in support of this argument, but depicting China as uniformly authoritarian risks missing the persistence of domestic forms of human rights advocacy and mobilization.
This chapter, “The Persistence of Chinese Rights Defenders”, which I wrote a couple of years ago for the Oxford Handbook of Law and Anthropology, draws on my experience as a rights advocate to review the history of civil society mobilization in China since 2000, including actions taken in domestic courts, in non-governmental organizations, and through social media. Despite repeated crackdowns, the arrest and disappearance of leading human rights defenders, and Chinese authorities’ interference with UN human rights mechanisms, some Chinese human rights defenders do find innovative ways to persist in rights-based advocacy, such as the practice of weiguan (public counterveillance during political trials).
I argue that the world has entered a more intense phase of struggle over the meaning and application of human rights norms in diverse local contexts, and that the human rights framework facilitates transnational solidarity.
Chinese Ambassador to the UN, Zhang Jun
This post is co-published on China Law and Policy
A few weeks ago – it feels like longer, given the COVID-19 crisis – I sat in a studio at the UN in Geneva with BBC journalist Imogen Foulkes, Sarah Brooks (ISHR) and Daniel Warner for a great chat about China at the United Nations. You can hear the conversation here .
Foulkes asked the panel: After years of marginalization, China is exercising growing influence at the UN, increasing its UN spending and heading five UN agencies. But what does China’s commitment to multilateralism mean in practice? Continue reading →
Right before everything got cancelled due to the COVID19 outbreak, I joined a panel of experts on the Inside Geneva podcast to discuss China’s changing role at the UN. With the US taking a step back from multilateral engagement, China’s leader, Xi Jinping, has pledged that China will step forward – but what has happened in practice? We explored this in relation to health, human rights and other areas.
The picture is changing rapidly today, with the US fumbling to respond to a rapidly escalating coronavirus outbreak, and China offering aid and supplies to many countries. But here’s what we thought two weeks ago.
Cheng Yuan and Shi Minglei
No response yet from China or UNAIDS to the letter signed by 200 individuals and organizations nearly 3 weeks ago about Chinese anti-discrimination activist Cheng Yuan and his two colleagues, the Changsha Three.
Here’s an overview to his impressive career and an update on retaliation against his wife and brother, who have raised public concerns about his detention. I’ve met Cheng Yuan in China, and know him personally as a quiet, sober civil rights activist; not someone who goes to international meetings or works with international organizations much, just a local rights lawyer who put his head down, tirelessly filing case after case on behalf of China’s most marginalized people. [A huge thank you to fellow volunteers Gisa Dang, Lu Jun, and Yang Zhanqing, who contributed research and links.] Continue reading →
Over 200 individuals and organizations signed an urgent appeal letter calling on China to release the Changsha Three: Cheng Yuan, Liu Yongze, and Xiao Wu of Chinese organization Changsha Funeng. The final letter with signatures is here: Changsha Three Open Letter 30 July 2019
The Chinese translation is here (中文版): 联名信中文版 Continue reading →