December 2022.

Independent Chinese civil society is under increasing attack from a government which views it as a threat to national security and social stability. The government uses a strategy of fear to deter rights action. The Chinese state maintains a vast system of surveillance and information control. This adds to the everyday stresses of life for all China’s citizens but for human rights defenders the additional impact of a hostile state and legal system is enormous.

The Rights Practice has produced an important new report focused on "Repression and Resilience: Mental Health of Chinese Human Rights Defenders". Our research shows that human rights defenders in China suffer from high levels of anxiety and depression. Fear and uncertainty, isolation and physical health problems all contribute to poor mental health. Yet despite these pressures, independent civil society is finding a way to persist: from providing support for injured migrant workers to challenging gender-based violence. Although not flourishing, Chinese civil society offers hope for the future.

In our new report, we include reflections from human rights defenders on the challenges they face and strategies they use to build resilience and sustain their work. We also provide recommendations to the international community and include suggestions for diplomats engaging with Chinese defenders. Recognition and support from the international community are essential to ensuring the sustainability of civil society groups.

Download full report here.