Weiquan activism and its limits
in China’s citizenship challenge
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This chapter analyses two acts, ‘defending rights’ and ‘educating in legal rights’, which utilise state-designated channels (in this case, labour laws), and therefore do not challenge the state directly. The chapter demonstrates the special role which labour rights play in negotiation of citizenship in China. Unlike aspirational kinds of rights, such as the right to the city or the right to self-organise, labour rights are usually framed as already existing ‘legal rights’ (hefa quanyi), which simply need to be ‘respected’, and, until recently, this made activism around them somehow less contentious. The chapter reflects critically on when ‘defending rights’ and ‘educating in legal rights’ can have a transformative effect on citizenship and when they help to maintain the status quo, by comparing cases when they help to produce active and informed citizens, and when they do not.

China’s citizenship challenge

Labour NGOs and the struggle for migrant workers’ rights

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