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HIV/AIDS and Human Rights in China – Law Professors to the Rescue?

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5 Responses

  1. Great post. Unfortunately, China does not yet understand the benefits of free speech. Sorry your trip was cancelled.

  2. Patrick S. O'Donnell says:

    This strikes me as a thoughtful and very nuanced if not sophisticated picture of things in China today. Only the last sentence, taken literally, seemed a bit out of place: “Chinese ideas”? Democratic theory and practice are not “Chinese ideas,” nor are “human rights,” but both have relevance to social change and reforms in China, even if they get translated into Chinese idioms (e.g., academic papers showing how Confucius had an incipient notion of human rights or that his philosophy–or that of neo-Confucianism for that matter–does not contravene human rights norms). If you mean, on the other hand, that leadership and momentum for change will need to be of Chinese provenance in a manner that speaks to Chinese traditions and worldviews while wending its way through Chinese social media and institutions so as not to be seen as threatening to formal structures of (traditional and novel) legal and political power in China, then I think you’re absolutely right. And you remind us that civil societies are not democratic by definition, necessarily structured in conjunction with the State (hence never wholly apart from the State). In any case, China has had enough of (violent) revolution, be it political or cultural. And today’s China seems to have distanced itself in some respects from the type of rule and policies that contributed to the famine of 1958-1961 in which it is estimated some 23 to 30 million people died.

    By the way, I’ve found both the China Law Blog ( and the Chinese Law Prof Blog ( to be informative on many topics, not all strictly related to economics, business and law (the former with a nice list of China blogs). And Randall Peerenboom’s articles and books I’ve found to be reliable guides on many topics (non-medical) raised in your informative post.

  3. Frank says:

    That’s a fascinating analysis. . . especially regarding the GONGO’s (I’d only heard of Quango’s.)

    Your post raises the difficult question of the relative efficiency of supporting the work of groups within and outside the government. As I understand it, you are suggesting that the former are likely to do more for positive social change–even if their conclusions may well be tempered by their close connection to existing power centers.

    I’m reminded of Google’s situation in China. They can either play by the government’s rules (essentially becoming an arm of the government to the extent they carry out its wishing–a bit like our phone companies re NSA spying). . . or risk being thrown out altogether.

  4. A.J. Sutter says:

    Interesting and sad but true IMHO. I’m involved in an incipient NGO-like project with the finance department at a Top 5 university in Beijing. (Organization was formed in Hong Kong, since it’s such a hassle on the Mainland.) Focus is on environmental problems, corporate social responsibility and the like. Student attitudes are very interesting — their ideas for change are *all* based on the government’s enhancing control-oriented measures (e.g., complex evaluation schemes for punishing local government officials, certifying the “greenest” companies, etc.), rather than liberalizing ones, much less that citizens or NGOs should take any initiative.

    The point about supporting Chinese academics is important (though I think “Chinese thinkers” rather than “Chinese ideas” in the post’s last line might be more to the point?). The lead tenured prof on my project is a Beijing-born, naturalized US citizen. I think folks like her are an important channel for bringing fresh thinking into the country. Nonetheless, even she sometimes becomes extremely sensitive and worried about rubbing the government the wrong way, in contexts that just baffle me. Which brings us back to ambivalence, and self-censorship: the last thing you want to do is to advocate actions that can get your friends in trouble. It’s hard for us to appreciate the gravity of the consequences of too-free speech in China, even about things like clean water and public health.

    Apropos of this, I think the reference to “Putinization” is not apt. Unlike Russia, China has been a Communist, nondemocratic country continously for the past 50+ years. Among the people I know there, the consensus is more that Hu & al. actually *believe* more of what they learned in their courses on Marxist-Leninism than did their predecessors. So the recent apparent tightening up of the country may be a manifestation of a very scary sort of idealism.

    Apropos of Frank’s comment about who will do more for positive social change — I’d agree that groups within the government are more likely to effect change for now. But I hope that groups outside the government, including just ordinary citizens, will have a role in more substantial and positive social change for the future. For this reason, talking with students is an even higher priority for me than talking with the profs.

  5. LM says:


    Actually, I think it may be Yahoo that you’re thinking of, not Google (though I could be wrong…). In response to claims that its cooperation with the Chinese government has resulted in the arbitrary detention of Chinese journalists, Yahoo said that it had no choice but to comply with local laws in China, and was legally obligated to hand over the identities of its private customers. Yahoo’s servers are located within China, so, according to the corporation, any official request for such information must be complied with.

    Google, on the other hand, does not provide e-mail or blog services in China, for precisely that reason: it does not wish to hand over the identities of its customers when doing so will likely enable the PRC to imprison (or worse) journalists and internet users for exercising their freedom of speech via the internet. It seems that Google has, indeed, found a way around Chinese laws, while still providing some services in China.

    Much more detailed information may be found here: