Between 1989 and 2023, more than 350 advocates from nearly 100 countries have attended the program. HRAP participants have ranged from early-career advocates who cut their teeth in very urgent human rights situations to mid-career advocates who have founded organizations. HRAP alumni have served as UN special rapporteurs, in the ministries of their governments, and at leading human rights organizations around the globe. They have been recognized with honors including the Rafto Prize, the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award and the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders, the highest acknowledgment from the international human rights community.
Below are the biographies of current Advocates and descriptions by select alumni as to why they became human rights advocates.
To see a list of additional past Advocates click here.
To read about more about the work of our Advocates click here .
Executive Director, Beijing LGBT Center
Director, China Against the Death Penalty, Beijing Daoheng Law Firm
Liang Xiaojun is a 2014 graduate of the HRAP. He is the director of China Against the Death Penalty and runs the Beijing Daoheng Law firm where he also acts as a human rights lawyer defending human rights activists.
He says, “China has become the world’s second-biggest economy and the Chinese Communist Party had made a law to limit the foreign NGO activities in China. Our work to defend human rights is very dangerous and it is normal for us to do it without any support.” HRAP was an occasion for Liang Xiaojun to expand his knowledge of human rights and meet other human rights advocates. “Due to the difference of culture and language and the Chinese Communist Party’s strict control over society, we have no more space to engage in human rights advocacy. I had the pleasure and was lucky to participate in HRAP in 2014 which gave me the opportunity to meet with the admirable professors and excellent human rights advocates from other countries. They opened my field of vision and inspired the courage to resist threats and oppression.”
Participation in HRAP was crucial for advancing English language skills. “I appreciate HRAP giving me the chance to study English. I am particularly thankful to Ms. Stephanie Grepo [the Director of Capacity Building at the Institute for the Study of Human Rights] who encouraged me to keep studying English. Now I can communicate with journalists and writers in English about the human rights crackdown in China.”
“Attending human rights classes at the Columbia University and traveling to Washington DC were the most memorable parts of the program,” concludes Liang Xiaojun. Despite barriers, Lian Xiaojun tries to keep in touch with other advocates through social media.
- Article composed by Chiora Taktakishvili, Fulbright Exchange Visitor, July 2019