China's Human Rights Lawyers: Advocacy and Resistance, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

China's Human Rights Lawyers

Advocacy and Resistance, 1st Edition

By Eva Pils


298 pages

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This book offers a unique insight into the role of human rights lawyers in Chinese law and politics. In her extensive account, Eva Pils shows how these practitioners are important as legal advocates for victims of injustice and how bureaucratic systems of control operate to subdue and marginalise them. The book also discusses how human rights lawyers and the social forces they work for and with challenge the system. In conditions where organised political opposition is prohibited, rights lawyers have begun to articulate and coordinate demands for legal and political change.

Drawing on hundreds of anonymised conversations, the book analyses in detail human rights lawyers’ legal advocacy in the face of severe institutional limitations and their experiences of repression at the hands of the police and state security apparatus, along with the intellectual, political and moral resources lawyers draw upon to survive and resist. Key concerns include the interaction between the lawyers and their bureaucratic, professional and social environments and the forms and long term political impact of resistance. In addressing these issues, Pils offers a rare evaluative perspective on China’s legal and political system, and proposes new ways to assess domestic advocacy’s relationship with international human rights and rule of law promotion.

This book will be of great interest and use to students and scholars of law, Chinese studies, socio-legal studies, political studies, international relations, and sociology. It is also of direct value to people working in the fields of human rights advocacy, law, politics, international relations, and journalism.


"Pils provides extraordinary insight into how the government controls lawyers through a mix of bureaucratic procedures and extralegal coercion and how the legal system works against citizens when their claims challenge official prerogatives." - Andrew J. Nathan, Foreign Affairs

Table of Contents

1. Perspectives on human rights advocacy in China 2. Quests for justice and legal advocacy in Chinese history 3. The place of rights advocacy in 'the System' 4. Courtroom advocacy5. Bureaucratic control of the legal profession 6. Relationship with the security apparatus 7. Resistance and wider legal political advocacy 8. Stability, reform and rights advocacy

About the Author

Eva Pils is Reader in Transnational Law at the Dickson Poon School of Law, King’s College London. She studied law, philosophy and sinology in Heidelberg, London and Beijing, qualified as a lawyer in Germany and holds a PhD in law from University College London. Her scholarship focuses on human rights and the law in China, with publications addressing the role and situation of Chinese human rights lawyers, land and eviction rights, criminal justice, access to justice and conceptions of justice in China. Her publications on these topics have appeared in academic publications as well as in the popular press. She has held appointments at New York University Law School, Cornell University Law School, and the Chinese University of Hong Kong Faculty of Law, and is a non-resident senior research fellow at the U.S.-Asia Law Institute of New York University Law School.

About the Series

Routledge Research in Human Rights Law

This series contains thought-provoking and original scholarship on human rights law. The books address civil and political rights as well as social, cultural and economic rights, and explore international, regional and domestic legal orders. The legal status, content, obligations and application of specific rights will be analysed as well as treaties, mechanisms and institutions designed to promote and protect rights.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LAW / Civil Rights
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Political Freedom & Security / Human Rights