Yap Thiam Hien

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Yap Thiam Hien
Born (1913-05-25)25 May 1913
Kutaraja, Aceh, Dutch East Indies
Died 29 April 1989(1989-04-29) (aged 75)
Brussels, Belgium
Residence Jakarta, Indonesia
Nationality Indonesian
Alma mater Leiden University
Occupation Human rights lawyer
Spouse(s) Tan Gien Khing Nio
Children 2
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese 葉添興[1]
Simplified Chinese 叶添兴
Hanyu Pinyin Yè Tiānxìng
Romanization Ya̍p Thiâmhîn

Yap Thiam Hien (25 May 1913 – 29 April 1989) was an Indonesian human rights lawyer.[2]


Born in Kutaraja, Aceh, Dutch East Indies, his father was Yap Sin Eng and his mother was Hwan Tjing Nio. Yap was of Chinese heritage and was an advocate for human rights. He believed achieving minority rights needed to be part of the larger struggle for the rights of all people.[3]


Yap moved often when he was young in pursuit his studies. He obtained the Meester der Rechten degree from the Faculty of Law, Leiden University in the Netherlands in 1947.[2] He returned to Indonesia and started his career as a lawyer in Jakarta. He opened a law firm together with John Karwin in 1950, and later joined the firm of Lie Hwee Yoe. He opened his own law firm in 1970. Since then, he has fought for human rights and for justice and equality for ethnic minorities and the poor. He was one of the founding members of PERADIN (Persatuan Advokat Indonesia) and served as the leader.

Together with Adnan Buyung Nasution, Mochtar Lubis, P.K. Ojong, Victor D. Sibarani, Albert Hasibuan, Bambang Widjojanto, Johannes Cornelis Princen and other notable human rights activists and lawyers,[4] Yap was one of the founders of Yayasan Lembaga Bantuan Hukum Indonesia (id) (YLBHI), formerly known as Lembaga Bantuan Hukum (LBH), which was a legal aid society to help the poor.[3]

In order to fight discriminative action toward Indonesian Chinese, in 1954 Yap was an early member of BAPERKI Badan Permusjawaratan Kewarganegaraan Indonesia, an organization originally dedicated to obtaining citizenship for ethnic Chinese. After the 1965 fall of the Soekarno regime, BAPERKI was accused of having links with the PKI and was banned by the new Suharto regime.[5]

While attending the International NGO Forum on Indonesian Development conference in Brussels, Yap suffered from internal bleeding and was treated at St. Augustin Hospital for two days before he died on April 25, 1989.


The Yap Thiam Hien Award is a human rights award named after him to commemorate his steadfastness and commitment. The Yap Thiam Hien Award Program has been managed by the Human Rights Study Center Foundation (Yayasan Pusat Studi Hak Asasi Manusia or YAPUSHAM) since 1992.


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