Article 1 of the UN Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms provides a definition of human rights defenders

Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels.

Article 1, UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders

This definition encompasses both individuals and civil society organisations and Article 2 goes on to state that each State has a prime responsibility and duty to protect, promote and implement all human rights and fundamental freedoms as established under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.   

Unfortunately, many countries not only fail to protect human rights defenders but enact domestic legislation which violates human rights and and impedes the work of human rights defenders.  In recent years in China, a growing number of individuals, organisations and networks have emerged to defend citizens’ rights in a wide range of areas such as land eviction, HIV discrimination, migrant workers, family planning, freedom of expression and the environment. 

Despite their growing number and influence, human rights defenders in China operate in an exceptionally difficult environment.  Restrictions on fundamental freedoms of association and expression and an authoritarian political system pose huge challenges to effective human rights work and leave human rights defenders extremely vulnerable to pressure from the authorities, who target not only the human rights defender but also their friends and family. 

We work with human rights defenders to address their practical needs, to help their families and to build their capacity to defend their own rights and interests nationally and explain their cause internationally.