Human Rights in ChinaA Social Practice in the Shadows of Authoritarianism
Human Rights in China
A Social Practice in the Shadows of Authoritarianism
How can we make sense of human rights in China's authoritarian Party-State system? Eva Pils offers a nuanced account of this contentious area, examining human rights as a set of social practices. Drawing on a wide range of resources including years of interaction with Chinese human rights defenders, Pils discusses what gives rise to systematic human rights violations, what institutional avenues of protection are available, and how social practices of human rights defence have evolved. 

Three central areas are addressed: liberty and integrity of the person; freedom of thought and expression; and inequality and socio-economic rights. Pils argues that the Party-State system is inherently opposed to human rights principles in all these areas, and that – contributing to a global trend – it is becoming more repressive. Yet, despite authoritarianism's lengthening shadows, China’s human rights movement has so far proved resourceful and resilient. The trajectories discussed here will continue to shape the struggle for human rights in China and beyond its borders.
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  • December 2017
  • 256 pages
  • 153 x 214 mm / 6 x 8 in
Available Formats
  • Hardback $67.50
  • 9781509500697
  • Paperback $23.75
  • 9781509500703
  • Open eBook $19.00
  • 9781509500734
Table of Contents
  • Map
  • Chronology
  • Acknowledgements
  • List of Abbreviations
  • Introduction
  • 1. Human Rights and Competing Conceptions of Justice, Law and Power in China
  • 2. Institutional Avenues of Human Rights Advocacy
  • 3. Liberty and Life
  • 4. Expression and Thought
  • 5. Inequality and Socio-economic Rights
  • 6. Rights Defenders
  • Conclusion
  • Notes
About the Author
Eva Pils is Reader in Transnational Law at King's College London.
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"Justice, tradition, contention: only Eva Pils could assess each of these complex constructs in the context of contemporary China, but also argue effectively that human rights have evolved as a social practice. In addition to systematically eviscerating authoritarians' shallow claims to uphold the rule of law, Pils offers a rich view of bottom-up, extraordinarily persistent activism - and the prospect of change in China."
Sophie Richardson, Human Rights Watch

"This timely book reflects the ongoing shifts in China's human rights performance and offers insights into the larger ideological, procedural and institutional background in which lawyers in China carry out their struggles. Her sharp critiques of the Chinese system are not only legally valid and morally sound, but also theoretically relevant."
Hualing Fu, University of Hong Kong

"The complexity of human rights discourse, law, and social practice in the Chinese context requires a multidimensional analysis and Pils’ book meets the challenge. She presents a nuanced study of the Chinese human rights landscape based on years of experience and solid research including exchanges with lawyers, journalists, and other human rights defenders. The book goes beyond a straightforward examination of existing norms, counter-norms, and institutional mechanisms to stress the importance of the practice of human rights advocacy and persistent civil society responses in the face of intensifying repression in the Xi Jinping era.”
Kelly Loper, I.con

“The book provides a panoramic view for readers who are interested in obtaining comprehensive knowledge of human rights and the role of law in China today. […] The book convincingly makes the case that all rights, as well as right violations, are interdependent, which explains why the suppres¬sion under China’s Party-State needs to be so comprehensive and nuanced.”
Asia-Pacific Journal on Human Rights and the Law

"[A] rare and precious monograph with a bottom-up perspective. […] Pils fills the knowledge gap in China's human rights praxis."
Human Rights Review

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