In the legal and political landscape of China today, there is a distinct group of “rights defence lawyers (weiquan lüshi)”, who take on politically sensitive cases, confront the state power and push for constitutionalism which limits the power of the government and safeguard the rights of citizens by the rule of law. They are targeted by the party-state for political suppression and routinely abused by the security apparatus. As a contribution to the world-wide debate on the interaction between rights lawyers and politics in an illiberal society, this presentation focuses the political roles and aspirations of rights lawyers in contemporary China. It seeks to explore the complex roles of these lawyers in defining and defending a variety of rights of Chinese citizens, in articulating popular grievances about actions of the Chinese government as questions of “the rule of law”, in developing civil society, and in facilitating social movement and China’s transformation to constitutional democracy.
About the Speaker
Dr Feng Chongyi is Associate Professor in China Studies, University of Technology, Sydney and adjunct Professor of History, Nankai University, Tianjin. He is China’s first holder of PhD in contemporary Chinese history and served as head of China Studies at UTS for 11 years during 1995-2006. His current research focuses on intellectual and political development in modern and contemporary China, as well as political economy of China’s provinces. His research explores the intellectual and political changes, the growth of rights consciousness and democratic forces in particular, leading to constitutional democracy in China. In addition to about 100 articles in academic journals and edited books, and numerous articles in newspapers and on the Internet, he is author of Peasant Consciousness and China (1989); Bertrand Russell and China (1994); China’s Hainan Province: Economic Development and Investment Environment (1995); The Struggle of National Spirit in National Crisis: Chinese Culture During the Period of the War of Resistance Against Japan (1995); From Sinification to Globalisation (2003); The Wisdom of Reconciliation: China’s Road to Liberal Democracy (1995); Liberalism within the CCP: From Chen Duxiu to Lishenzhi (2009); Principles and Passion: Prefaces and Poems of Feng Chongyi (2011); and China’s Constitutional Transformation (2014). He is also editor of The Political Economy of China’s Provinces (1999); North China at War: The Social Economy of Revolution, 1937-1945 (2000); Constitutional Government and China (2004); Li Shenzhi and the Fate of Liberalism in China (2004); China in the Twentieth Century (2006); Constitutional Democracy and Harmonious Society (2007), China in Multi-disciplinary Perspectives (2008), and The End of the History of the Anti-Chinese Policy in Australia (2016). He has been named one of the hundred Chinese public intellectuals in the world by several Chinese websites since 2005.
After the Seminar