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Yu Wensheng

HRD & Lawyer
Martin Ennals Award

A successful business lawyer, Yu Wensheng (54) gave up his career to defend one of these detained lawyers, before being arrested himself. Detained for almost three years now, Yu Wensheng’s right hand was crushed in jail and his health is failing.

Franco-German Prize for Human Rights and the Rule of Law

Yu Wensheng was named one of the recipients of the 2018 Franco-German Prize for Human Rights and the Rule of Law. His wife, Xu Yan, accepted the award from the French and German ambassadors to China in January 2019.

Based on the extraordinary current circumstances and my personal situation, and with me being in the dangerous place of Beijing, I’ve already made preparations for paying the price of losing my freedom again, or even my life.

Yu Wensheng is a human rights lawyer who operates in Beijing. He has represented cases of victims of China’s crackdowns on petitioners, civil rights activists, and his fellow human rights lawyers. Yu Wensheng has also used his legal skills to advocate for reform in multiple sectors of Chinese society. In 2016, Yu Wensheng was one of a small group of lawyers to sue the Chinese government over air pollution in the country.


Chinese human rights defenders work across a wide spectrum of issues, engaging with rights violators on numerous levels. Many of China’s most prominent and most stringently prosecuted defenders have worked to protect the health and well-being of victims of physically harmful government and corporate practice, including forced abortion, food health scandals, environmental pollution, and corrupt or negligent government action leading to preventable loss of life. Other Chinese HRDs work to protect the economic rights of Chinese citizens, advocating for victims of property appropriation, forced demolition, and violation of labour contracts. Still others take on cases of freedom of expression for China’s ethnic and religious minorities.