Living Up to Human Rights Responsibilities: Lawyers and Law Firms in the Chinese Authoritarian Context

Nicola Macbean, Elisa Nesossi

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


    This chapter explores the responsibility of non-state actors — lawyers and law firms specifically — to protect human rights and examines the challenges and dilemmas they face when operating in an authoritarian context. The questions we explore in this chapter grew out of the authors’ work in China1 and collaborations with both Chinese lawyers and activists acting for the promotion and protection of human rights, and with the foreign legal community. Disappointed by the silence of foreign law firms at the detention of Chinese lawyers, we ask: what are the challenges law firms and lawyers face when they decide to ‘go global,’ particularly when operating in authoritarian countries with weak legal systems? We have sought to frame our concerns within the debate about the human rights obligations of non-state actors. As critical actors in the administration of justice, lawyers would seem to have an important role to play in the protection of human rights and in shaping domestic and international human rights discourses. In their quest for justice on behalf of their clients, lawyers have the potential to contribute to the creation of the legal tools and arguments against human rights abuses and their cases help shape public understanding of the law. Lawyers engage with the media and influence public opinion; they lobby governments and, importantly, have a deep impact on the way in which the business world operates.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationHuman Rights Protection in Global Politics: Responsibilities of States and Non-State Actors
    Editors Kurt Mills and David Jason Karp
    Place of PublicationBasingstoke
    PublisherPalgrave Macmillan Ltd
    ISBN (Print)9781349499199
    Publication statusPublished - 2015


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