SOAS University of London

School of Law

Law and Human Rights in China

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Term 1

This module provides students with a focused introduction to key issues related to law and human rights in modern China.  During the first part of the module, students will be given an overview of human rights in China focussing on the history of human rights in China, the role of Asian values critiques within human rights debates, primary international and domestic legislation related to human rights, and finally the international and domestic matters which obstruct the effective enforcement of human rights within China.  Furthermore, students will be introduced to the differing theories and techniques used by scholars to critique the past and present status of human rights in China, as well as predict its future developments.
The second half of the module examines specific human rights case studies and also considers the future of the relationship between law and human rights in China.  To do this, students will be asked to consider how each element examined in part one of this module independently or co-ordinately influences the conceptualisation, legislation, and enforcement of specific human rights within the Chinese context.  For example, through a case study of China’s one-child policy, students will consider how China’s legal past, cultural-specific critiques, current legislation, and enforcement problems each influence the present and future status of the human rights of women in China.
Although the module is listed as a 2 hour lecture, it will require a high level of student participation and discussion.  Students will be asked to take an interdisciplinary approach the study of human rights in China by drawing upon weekly readings from the fields of legal history, area studies, political science, comparative law, human rights law, international law, and domestic Chinese law.  All readings will be in English; however, students will be required to master some fundamental terminology related to human rights in China.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

  •  a clear understanding of the history and development of Human rights discourse in China
  • an advanced ability to critically compare the various methods used by modern scholars to examine China’s human rights development
  • an advanced ability to explain the key legislation (domestic and international) related to human rights and human rights protection in China
  • an advanced understanding of key domestic obstacles to effective human rights enforcement in China
  • an advanced knowledge of limitations of international actors attempting to influence the recognition and enforcement of human rights in China
  • an advanced ability to reconstruct and critically assess the various means through which modern Chinese citizens and government officials engage in human rights debates
  • an advanced ability to critically and knowledgably discuss specific areas of  human rights law in China: e.g. freedom of religion; forced family planning; freedom of speech; socio-political rights; labour rights; gender and human rights; etc.
  • an advanced comprehension of debates over China’s future human rights development

Method of assessment

  • Coursework: 30% (1500 words), 70% (3500 words)


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules