A sociosemiotic approach to fundamental rights in China

Le Cheng, Shifeng Ni, King Kui Sin, Winnie Cheng

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


The legal term "fundamental rights" has been well recognized in international treaties and legislations. The present study investigates the stipulations on fundamental rights in the four versions (1954, 1975, 1978, and 1982) of and four Amendments (1988, 1993, 1999, and 2004) to the Constitution of the People's Republic of China (PRC) from a sociosemiotic perspective. The findings in this study indicate that the provisions in the Constitution are crafted in such a manner that the dominant social and political participants employ them to maintain their ruling position and promote social and economic developments. In the successive versions and Amendments to the PRC Constitution, the evolution of the provisions on fundamental rights not only demonstrates the development of fundamental rights in China, but also illuminates the underlying mediation mainly among the Chinese government, the Communist Party of China (CPC), and Chinese people. The connotation and validity therein is constructed through communication and competition among various participants. It is therefore argued that the status quo of fundamental rights in China is the result of mediation among the relevant participants under the impact of the social and economic development. The State and the CPC are thus suggested to loosen their grips to promote Chinese people's participation in the mediation process with more attention to the social and economic reality. This study also implies that the definition of a legal term is constrained by other sign systems and hence the importance of an understanding of terminological dynamicity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)41-55
Number of pages15
Issue number190
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Fundamental rights
  • Meaning construction
  • PRC Constitution
  • Social mediation
  • Sociosemiotic
  • Terminological dynamicity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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