Thinkers & Advocates

Sophie Richardson

The Washington, D.C. watchdog who won't let policymakers forget Chinese human rights.

China director, Human Rights Watch

Little would make Beijing happier than if no one in the United States said a word about human rights in China ever again. It’s not always a welcome topic stateside either, because China isn’t afraid to punish individuals or companies abroad for comments about issues it considers off-limits. Under both Republican and Democratic administrations, it’s been the case that talking about China’s repeated violations of basic human rights norms can go against entrenched American business and even political interests. But Sophie Richardson is relentless. Her written work, repeated congressional testimony, and frequent backroom arm-twisting of Washington decision-makers ensure that the issue can’t be ignored in the halls of power. (Disclosure: Richardson is a frequent contributor to



Under a Trump administration that has not yet voiced strong concern over human rights violations abroad, Richardson’s tenacity will be needed. Tom Malinowski, former assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights, and labor and a former colleague of Richardson, put it this way for


: “When children are tempted to steal cookies, they hear a voice in their head saying, ‘God will see you,’ and they do the right thing. When grown-up policymakers are tempted to forget about Chinese dissidents, that voice says, ‘Sophie will see you,’ and they usually do the right thing.”

(Photo Credit: Anthony Wallace/AFP/Getty Images)

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