Lawyers and the Politics of Activism in the Xi Jinping Era

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Speakers: Sida Liu & Terence C. Halliday

After a decade of expanding lawyer activism in China, the large-scale “709 Crackdown” beginning in July 2015 has had a deep chilling effect on the fight by criminal defense and human rights lawyers for basic legal freedoms. The chill casts a shadow over the entire Chinese legal profession, civil society and the prospect of a law-based political order in China. Nevertheless, many activist lawyers persist and international civil society has amplified its support for activist lawyers who are subject to the increasing control and repression of the Chinese state. Based on their recent book Criminal Defense in China: The Politics of Lawyers at Work (Cambridge University Press, 2016), as well as ongoing research on other forms of lawyer activism, Liu and Halliday trace the social trajectory of Chinese lawyers’ collective action in the early 21st century and contemplate the future of political activism in China under Xi Jinping. Sida Liu is Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Toronto and Faculty Fellow at the American Bar Foundation. His empirical research focuses on the legal profession in China. He also writes on socio-legal theory and general social theory. Terence C. Halliday is Research Professor at the American Bar Foundation, where he co-directs the Center on Law and Globalization. With interdisciplinary collaborators, he has published several books on the legal complex in struggles for political liberalism in Asia and across the world.