Government specter hovers over foreign NGOs in China



The European Union should press China to end its crackdown on civil society and peaceful dissent, Human Rights Watch said today in a letter to European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and European Council President Donald Tusk. Juncker and Tusk will attend the EU-China Summit in Beijing on July 12-13, 2016.

“The EU presidents should stress to China’s leaders that they don’t treat the current crackdown as ‘business as usual,’” said Lotte Leicht, EU director at Human Rights Watch. “Working to reverse the deteriorating rights situation in China is key to advancing the new EU-China strategy and other EU interests in China.”

While China might think Europe is weak right now [in the wake of Brexit], it is vital that the EU does not water down its commitment to human rights and democracy to appease the Chinese government, notes Andrew Anderson, the Deputy Director of Front Line Defenders in Dublin. In fact, without the UK, the EU may be in a stronger position to emphasize the importance of human rights and the rule of law, he writes for The Diplomat:

The UK was one of China’s biggest apologists within the EU as they promoted a so-called “golden era“ of friendship. Without the UK, the EU can be more principled and use this Summit to send a clear message that while it’s open to greater trade with China, European support for human rights in the country is non-negotiable. Specifically, EU leaders need to strongly affirm that support for Chinese human rights defenders (HRDs) will continue despite the Chinese government’s attempts to silence them.

The party’s tightened control over foreign NGOs largely reflects the Chinese government’s response to uprisings in Eastern Europe in the mid-2000s, analyst Zihang Liu writes for the International Policy Digest:

While the Western press celebrated the triumph of participatory democracy and the pervasive influence of NGOs with the 2003 Rose Revolution in Georgia, the 2004 Orange Revolution in Ukraine, and the 2005 Tulip Revolution in Kyrgyzstan, the Chinese government became concerned that similar uprisings would occur within its own borders. The party used these upheavals as evidence of the negative influences of foreign and internationally oriented domestic NGOs. As a result, in the spring of 2005, all registered Chinese NGOs were required to submit reports to supervisory government agencies in which they clarified their connections with foreign organizations.

Given Beijing’s looming restrictions on the development of civil society in China, it will take much more than a recent conference on philanthropy to mobilize China’s other 430 billionaires to demonstrate an interest in helping to meet the world’s needs, Jim Schaffer writes for Non-Profit Quarterly.

Religious persecution in China includes this story about a couple buried alive trying to prevent their church from being demolished, he adds:

Foreign NGOs operating inside China are not spared. The Chinese Human Rights Defenders group, run by overseas activists, described and criticized the new laws in this statement.

Here is a recent story about a Swedish NGO chief [Peter Dahlin] working in China to promote access to legal services who was detained for 23-days before being deported:

On the 10th day of Dahlin’s captivity in a secret Beijing jail, Chinese state security officers sprang one of their big surprises—something he found even more astonishing than hearing a colleague being beaten in a room above his cell. They showed him a document…prepared by the National Endowment for Democracy, a nonprofit group based in Washington that is largely funded by the United States Congress.

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