Karen Tse is the daughter of two immigrants who moved from Hong Kong to the U.S. to improve their living conditions. Born in 1964, she spent most of her childhood in Los Angeles. From a young age, she showed a surprising maturity and interest in activism and charitable activities. She occasionally heard about the problems of family members and friends who were unjustly imprisoned and tortured in Asia, and was deeply shocked by their stories. She studied law at the University of California – Los Angeles (UCLA) before accepting a job in Asia.
While in Cambodia, Karen Tse worked to reform the legal system and provide assistance to people who were imprisoned or tortured. Everywhere she went, she educated human rights defenders: prison guards, judges, police officers and office clerks. In 1997, she returned to the United States to study at the prestigious Harvard Divinity School where she studied theology. In the early 2000s, she founded the International Bridge to Justice, an organization dedicated to the eradication of torture and the protection of people who have been wrongly convicted.