Freedom of Association: Study Questions

Suggested Study Questions and Activities

Teachers: The following are questions and activities that can be given to your students after they read the materials in each section. The questions are meant to be asked as a review exercise, although some encourage critical thinking as well. The activities can be presented as classroom exercises or as individual homework assignments. Unlike the questions, they tend to require additional research. Some call for students to create mock trials or debates that would engage the entire class. Both the questions and the activities are formatted so that they might be used directly by students, although you may rewrite them as you feel necessary.

Essential Principles


Alexis de Tocqueville wrote that in democratic countries, "The art of associating together must grow and improve in the same ratio in which the equality of conditions is increased." (Book II. Chapter 12.  Democracy in America.)  What does Tocqueville mean by this comment? What other forms of free association can you think of? Where has freedom of association generally been respected and where have states tried to repress this freedom? In democracies, do you think extremist groups should be free to associate? On what basis should groups be banned, if at all?


See Freedom House and Freedom House reports on worker rights in the US and globally. How does the US record on protecting freedom of association compare with those of other major industrialized democracies in the last twenty-five years? In the last 10 years? Why do you think this is the case? Search through the news to find examples of protests, strikes, and demonstrations that support your findings.



What role did freedom of association play in the history of democracy in Chile? How did citizens' and workers' associations act to bring democracy back to Chile in 1988–90? How have labor rights fared in Chile’s “Second Golden Age of Democracy”? What role are students playing today in Chile?


Read Chile and Tunisia Country Studies to compare the role of trade unions in each country in bringing about democracy. Has the freedom of association situation improved or worsened in each country? What events have had an impact on freedom of association? How have workers and others responded?



What has been the political role of trade unions in Tunisia? What role did it play during the struggle for independence during the colonial period? In achieving independence? During the Bourguiba and Ben Ali dictatorships? And in the Jasmine Revolution? What role has it been playing in the transition in Tunisia? Why did the National Dialogue Quartet win the Nobel Peace Prize for 2015? How did the political history of the labor movement in Tunisia affect its role in society since the Jasmine Revolution?


Using the Country Study and Resources section, review accounts of the National Constituent Assembly’s debates over the new constitution (see, for example Tunis Times, Open Democracy.Net, Economist, New York Times, among other sources). Answer the following questions: What were the key issues being debated? How have these issues been resolved? What is the debate between secular and religious parties in Tunisia? How has the transition process in Tunisia differed from Egypt, which also experienced a revolution during the Arab Spring? What has marked the Tunisia transition process?



What was the role of freedom of association in imperial China? Were there independent groups? In the Republic of China? In the People’s Republic of China? How has the People's Republic of China suppressed freedom of association and the development of free trade unions? What are current examples of suppression of freedom of association?


Review recent articles and other materials posted on China Labour Bulletin. Answer the following research questions: How have workers in China exercised their rights to freedom of association and protest in recent years? Has this resulted in independent trade unions being organized? What is the role of the ACFTU (All-Chinese Federation of Trade Unions). Read commentary and watch presentation by CLB director Han Dongfeng. What does he propose as a strategy for Chinese workers to achieve their rights?

Review specifically articles related to U.S. firms in China, such as Walmart, Apple, and Google. How do American companies behave in China? Do they respect rights of freedom of association?