This paper explores the interrelationship between the Chinese government’s legal commitments to protect the social and economic rights of its citizens and its preoccupation with protecting social stability. It argues that the governance of social and economic rights; legislative definition, claim making and state responses to claim making and protest, are permeated by the demand for a particular type of social stability – quietude. The paper develops the argument about the impact of social stability on governance through an example of rabble rousing in and around hospitals. It documents the dynamic mix of legal and policy mechanisms for accommodation and repression that have been employed to address the social consequences of failures to give effect to its rights promises.
Sarah Biddulph is Assistant Deputy Vice Chancellor International – China. She is also Professor of Law at the Melbourne Law School and Director of its Asian Law Centre. Sarah’s research focuses on the Chinese legal system with a particular emphasis on legal policy, law making and enforcement as they affect the administration of justice in China. Her particular areas of research are contemporary Chinese administrative law, criminal procedure, labour, comparative law and the law regulating social and economic rights. Her recent publications include The Stability Imperative: Human Rights and Law in China, Good Governance in Economic Development: International Norms and Chinese Perspectives edited with Ljiljana Biukovic, and Handbook of Human Rights in China Edward Elgar 2019 edited with Josh Rosenzweig.