John Wagner Givens has put this idea more eloquently, regarding the role of dissident lawyers in China: “the courageous efforts of the handful of prominent lawyers who have suffered at the hands of the authorities have pushed the envelope of what is permissible, allowing their lesser-known counterparts greater freedoms.”
Democratization is a process. Dissidents are a minority, but they play a role in the democratization process. Dissidents are a minority. But human rights are first of all individual’s rights – the rights of each and every individual to express what they believe, to connect and rally with like-minded individuals, to pursue the happiness they define for themselves (and not the kind of happiness their government imposes on them), as long as they do not cause harms to legitimate interests and rights of other people by engaging in violent actions.
And precisely because political dissidents are often a minority that their rights and freedoms must be protected. We do not need to see millions of people being silenced or put in jail to claim there is a violation of human rights. Violation of human rights occurs when one person, a single person, is deprived of free expression and liberty only because their government dislikes their political opinions. What happens to that individual today can happen to other people tomorrow.