East Asia in Action| Matrix of Free Spaces in China: Mobilizing Citizens and the Law Through Digital and Organizational Spaces

Wei Lit Yew


How do digital communicative spaces facilitate legal mobilization, an emerging genre of social activism in China? What strategies do activists pursue in these spaces to sustain their resistance? Using a 2015 case study in Xiamen, Fujian Province, where an environmental nongovernmental organization led a lawsuit in the name of “pedestrians’ rights,” I seek to address these questions. This exploratory research illustrates how activists appropriate a “matrix of free spaces” available to them—a hybridized intersection of relatively stable organizational and digital spaces—for everyday organizing and for disseminating “citizenship talk,” so that participants mobilize as citizens who invoke the law to effect policy change. It also reveals a snapshot of how collective solidarities may persist under authoritarian rule as well as the broader possibilities and challenges accompanying civic activism in China.


lawful activism, safe spaces, mobile communication, environmental NGOs, WeChat, China

Full Text: