China's long march towards the protection of social rights - the case of labor rights and judicial activism by Professor Choukroune

In her paper, Professor Choukroune tackles the troubled relationship between the rise of rights interest litigation and labor law reforms in China, investigating: (I) the constitutional dimension of rights, (II) the concept of corporate social responsibility and (III) the role played at large by civil society in shaping the modernization of China. She then analyses the Chinese courts’ role and judges’ judicial activism in this field, highlighting the wider consequences for the legal system. Exploring these issues gives the opportunity to deal with hotly-debated and timely problems for today’s China, such as the figure and status of judges and lawyers, that helps to better understand the progress of China is establishing a rule of law-based system. First, Professor Choukroune identifies labor law as a key area for assessing China’s legal modernization and contextualises it in the proper constitutional framework, stressing the major inconsistencies. Here, for example, the problem of “forced labor” stands for contradiction that need to be solved. Although some evident problems, China’s improvements are undeniable – the new Labor Contract Law, that took effect in 2008, is a key example of these developments. And, then - concretely speaking - Walmart’s decision to sign collective contracts with its employees is to be considered a true real legal revolution, able to produce new “hopes for new social developments and pave[s] the way towards the long-awaited democratization phase.” What is the role of civil society in promoting and fostering these social changes? This is one of the key questions of the article. Especially, the roles of activists, rights lawyers, NGOs and media is considered from a variety of perspectives. In particular, the judicial creativity in this field is taken as a key example. Two examples of Rights Interest Litigation (R.I.L.) are described in their most concrete and technical aspects. First, the broadening of the procedural “locus standi” in labor disputes. Secondly, the case of the use of RIL in hepatitis B virus, through the Employment Promotion Law.