Skip to main content

"Dignity Discourses in Struggles for Basic Legal Freedoms in China"

2/8/2021, Terence Halliday, Sida Liu

"Dignity Discourses in Struggles for Basic Legal Freedoms in China" Asian Journal of Law & Society 8:1 134-150 (2021)

How do dignity discourses shift the framing of struggles for basic legal freedoms? Based on our decade-long empirical research on lawyers and politics in China, we provide a theoretical intervention in a burgeoning socio-legal scholarship on dignity in this article. Drawing inductively from in-depth interviews, we find that a powerful current of dignity consciousness and sentiment, joined by an acute awareness of dignity harms, flows through the community of Chinese activist lawyers. Their dignity discourses can be witnessed and explained in four streams of awareness: (1) dignity experienced as an ideal in juridical, philosophical, and theological idioms; (2) dignity takings experienced indirectly and directly in the property takings of clients’ homes, farms, and livelihood; (3) assaults on dignity through property takings of spaces of religious worship; and (4) the takings of professional dignity from the lawyers charged with defending the dignity of others. This article points to the value of dignity framings in the general theory of collective action for basic legal freedoms.

Site design by Webitects

© 2021 American Bar Foundation (
750 North Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60611-4403
(312) 988-6500
Contact Us
Contact the Fellows
Media Contacts
Privacy policy
Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in ABF publications are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the American Bar Foundation or the American Bar Association. The AMERICAN BAR FOUNDATION, ABF and related seal trademarks as used by the American Bar Foundation are owned by the American Bar Association and used under license.