Handbook on Human Rights in China
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Handbook on Human Rights in China

Edited by Sarah Biddulph and Joshua Rosenzweig

This Handbook gives a wide-ranging account of the theory and practice of human rights in China, viewed against international standards, and China’s international engagements around human rights. The Handbook is organised into the following sections: contested meanings; international dimensions; economic and social rights; civil and political rights; rights in/action and access to justice; political dimensions of human rights in Greater China; and new frontiers.
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Chapter 9: Labor rights in China

Manfred Elfstrom


Labor activism has played a critical role in the strengthening of basic human rights protections. This chapter provides an overview of China’s changing legal and institutional environment for workers, from the pre-revolutionary era through to today. In particular, this chapter examines recent alterations to the country’s labor laws and reforms to the Communist Party-controlled All China Federation of Trade Unions. Furthermore, the chapter explores shifts in Chinese worker activism along three dimensions: changing demands, changing tactics, and changing organizations. The chapter concludes by delving into questions raised by these dynamics, including the merits of rights- versus interest-based activism and institutional versus extra-institutional approaches to justice.

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