Ambivalence and Activism: Employment Discrimination in China

Chinese courts have not vigorously enforced many human rights, but a recent string of employment discrimination lawsuits suggests that, given the appropriate conditions, advocacy strategies, and rights at issue, victims can vindicate constitutional and statutory rights to equality in court.  Specifically, carriers of the hepatitis B virus (HBV) have used the 2007 Employment Promotion Law to ground legal challenges against employers who discriminate against them in the hiring process.  Plaintiffs’ relatively high success rate suggests official support for making one prevalent form of discrimination illegal.  Central to these lawsuits is a broad network of lawyers, activists, and scholars who actively support plaintiffs, suggesting a limited role for civil society in the world of Chinese law.  Although many problems remain with employment discrimination, China has made concrete steps toward repealing a legal edifice of discrimination that stretches back decades and reshaping policies and attitudes to eradicate a prevalent form of discrimination, targeting carriers of infectious disease.

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