Chinese ophthalmologist Li Wenliang was one of the first to identify the COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan. In late 2019, he alerted his colleagues of an illness that resembled SARS but didn’t respond to usual treatment. He was reprimanded and later died of COVID-19. He is since regarded as a medical hero.
Liu Xiaobo was a Chinese activist, literary critic, and philosopher. He is best remembered for organizing campaigns that aimed at ending the one-party rule in China. He was honored with the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize for his struggle for human rights in China. Liu is the first Chinese citizen to be honored with a Nobel Prize while residing in China.
Chinese human rights activist and democracy movement leader Wang Dan was one of the most significant student leaders of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests. A Harvard alumnus, he was banned from China and even imprisoned for his political activities. He eventually moved into exile in the US.
Uyghur businesswoman and human rights activist Rebiya Kadeer, who was nominated for the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize, was initially a housewife. Following her divorce, she opened her laundry business, which developed into a women’s bazaar. She was later arrested for revealing sensitive information but escaped to the U.S.
Chinese-born American human rights activist Harry Wu spent almost 2 decades in Chinese labor camps. His criticism of the Soviet invasion of Hungary led him to be imprisoned. He later conducted research at the Hoover Institution, established the Laogai Research Foundation, and also penned a couple of books.
Chinese astrophysicist and activist Fang Lizhi inspired the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests. The dissident was expelled from the Chinese Communist Party for his activities, but that didn’t stop his research, which took him to institutes in the US and Great Britain. He also taught at the University of Arizona.
Chinese human rights activist Hu Jia has worked extensively in fighting for the democratic and environmental movements in China and in combating HIV/AIDS. In 2008, he received the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. Imprisoned and then released, he was named a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International.
Chinese Buddhist monk Taixu was also a modern thinker and an activist. Inspired by Sun Yat-sen and by the 1911 revolution, he set out to introduce reforms in the education of monks and in social welfare. He intended to fuse Buddhism with science and modern philosophy.
Chinese historian and celebrated environmental activist Liang Congjie co-founded Friends of Nature, the first Chinese environmental NGO. Instead of opposing the government, he suggested reforms for the existing environmental laws. He launched China’s first bird-watching group and promoted tree-planting. He received the 2000 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Public Services.
The National Organization for Women’s 8th president, Molly Yard was a prominent Chinese-born American feminist and social activist. Initially part of the Democratic Party politics, she later helped establish the Americans for Democratic Action. She was awarded the Feminist Majority Foundation's lifetime achievement award. She also supported the labor and civil rights movements.
Hong Kong-born American artist Paul Chan wears multiple hats, from drawing, to writing and publishing. Known for his unusual creations, such as The 7 Lights, a projected-animation series, he is also the founder of the New York-based e-book publisher Badlands Unlimited. His work encompasses topics such as politics, porn, and violence.