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Workers’ rights defence on China's internet: an analysis of actors

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The discourse of ‘rights defence’ (weiquan), referring to the grassroots’ struggle for legal redress after their lawful interests are encroached upon, has gained increasing popularity in China in the last two decades. Given the ubiquity of the Internet nowadays, rights defence activities also take place online; in a small number of cases, they develop into a form of online activism. But what determines or contributes to the online visibility of some rights defence cases and the invisibility of others? In this paper, we investigate this by examining three highly visible workers’ rights defence campaigns in comparison with three similar cases that received almost no attention. Analysing the various actors involved, we argue that online rights defence tends to become visible and develop into online activism when one key actor, the state, which ought to be an impartial source of justice, is perceived to be collusive or to be playing an active role in the encroachment of people's rights and interests.
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Keywords: China; Rights defence; internet incident; online activism

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Seafarers International Research Centre, Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK 2: School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

Publication date: August 2, 2016

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