Written by Jackie Sheehan.
My first degree was in Chinese Studies, and in almost three decades of studying China since then, I’ve developed quite a varied set of research interests. If they have a common thread, it’s been the contradiction (a good old Maoist term) between the PRC’s constitutional guarantees of civil rights and the difficulty citizens have always faced in trying to enforce them in practice.
This is what unites my doctoral work on labour protest under CCP rule with my interest in the development of the democracy movement and its Cultural Revolution origins, and in a whole range of marginalised and persecuted groups and individuals in China today, whether they be members of ethnic minorities whose expressions of their identity are punished as “splittist”, house-church worshippers under pressure from a 10-year government plan to eradicate their organizations, or parents who have fallen foul of a family-planning system increasingly driven by the economic interests of its enforcers. I’ll also be focusing on the careers of rights defenders in China, starting with a piece on Xu Zhiyong’s imprisonment and the New Citizens Movement.
For the past nine years I’ve also been researching the experiences of Chinese migrants abroad, and my role as an expert witness in asylum tribunals and criminal cases involving Chinese nationals has also led me to an interest in human trafficking between China and the EU and the social forces that drive it. I’ll be mainly focusing on this work for the next couple of years in my new post in Ireland, as well as endeavouring to finish my long-awaited (by its putative publisher, anyway) book on the Cultural Revolution.
Jackie Sheehan is Professor and Head of Asian Studies at University College Cork.