The Qing Dynasty

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The overthrow of the Qing dynasty followed by the establishment of Republican China in 1911 signified the start of a new era. Despite frequent alternation in power among domestic warlords, democratic spirit thrived and culminated in the occurrence of the New Culture Movement in 1915. The movement was liberal and cosmopolitan until the outbreak of the May Fourth student demonstration in 1919 in response to the Paris Peace Conference’s decision to hand over the German concessions in Shandong to Japan. The May Fourth incident marked the turning point of the New Culture Movement. Since then the ideological gap among the intelligentsia had become increasingly widened, though they still united from time to time to attack government’s violations of human rights. This section delineates the development of the conceptualization of human rights and citizenship between 1915 and 1930s.
The Content of Rights

Civil and political rights continued to be the focus of rights advocacy. Freedoms of thought, speech, and publication were especially prioritized. Known for his vigorous attack on various elements of Confucianism and often regarded as a radical anti-traditionalist, Chen Duxiu (1879-1942), leader of the May Fourth Movement and cofounder of the Communist Party of China, argued that the freedoms of thought and speech were necessary things in life and indispensable for the development of one’s personality (Chen 1915, 1984c). He insisted on the absolute freedom of speech, arguing

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