Non-Governmental Organizations: the Crackdown continues

Anyone who has  ever worked to set up a company or any other kind of organization in China – commercial or non-profit – will know that to establish a reliable and calculable legal basis is a challenging task. This, among others, is probably what state chief councillor Wen Jiabao was referring to in summer, when he said that

[…] when China wants to establish a democratic country ruled by law [or a country with law and order – 中国要建立一个民主和法治的国家 (fǎ zhì)], the so-called rule by law means that after a political party took power, it should act in accordance with the constitution and the law, the party’s will and positions must be turned into constitutional and lawful provisions by rightful procedures, and the ways of organizing must be enacted in compliance with the constitution and the law – only that can be called a country governed in accordance with the law (依法治国, yī fǎ zhì guó).

That, however, seems to reflect Wen Jiabao’s personal opinion, rather than that of the CCP in general – and even when it comes to Wen’s own position, D. S. Rajan, the Chennai Centre for China Studies‘ director, voiced skepticism. The CCP may prefer to avoid obvious breach of law these days, but has developed a liking for using administrative means instead in processing its shitlists. Additional tax demands have apparently become a hot option for the Chinese authorities to have disliked organizations close down.

It's just a Tax Issue

No, no - it's nothing political. It's just a Tax Issue.

The Open Constitution Initiative faced closure in July 2009, after a demand of tax-related payments which apparently broke the organization’s neck. Generally, administrative procedures seem to be more frequently used in recent years,  in lieu of outright crackdowns.

An AIDS support group in Beijing, managed by Zeng Jinyan (曾金燕), seems to be another organization in the row of organizations in China targeted by – apparently both local and national – Chinese authorities. In a blogpost on November 11, Ms Zeng wrote on her blog that the organization, Beijing Love Source Information Centre, was

under investigation from both national and local tax bureaus. […] In order to keep damages to the minimum, I, as the legal representative of Beijing Loving Source, hereby announce the formal closure of the Centre.  [Translation by C. A. Yeung, UnderTheJacaranda – more details and a link to Ms Zeng’s blogpost there.]

Ms Zeng is married to Hu Jia, who co-founded the organization and is currently in prison.

Ms Yeung wrote today that

things don’t look good for Jinyan. She is very worried but doesn’t know what can be done. She’s been threatened with arrest. It’s also been suggested to her that her family will be put under strict house arrest once Hu Jia is released. (similar to what is happening now to the blind activist Chen Guangcheng). Even Hu Jia’s younger sister has been barred from leaving the country. At the moment, I and other friends of hers are still keeping in touch with her on a regular basis but we don’t know how long this can last, as both phone and Internet communications are intermittently cut off.

Ms Yeung will post more information as it comes in.

12 Responses to “Non-Governmental Organizations: the Crackdown continues”

  1. someone must have been watching a lot of “The Untouchables”, how Eliot Ness gotten the best of Al Capone, if we cannot get them’ on criminal charges, let’s get them on tax evasion.

    As said, the “legislature” is supposed to protect helpless normal people from “organized bunch of thugs”, but seems like this case is other way around.

    I am watching Shanghai fire incident with much sorrow, condolences to the China and its people, especially those lost their love ones.
    The legislature seemed to fail to protect its people, also, fire ignited due to sparking from welding is nothing new at all and well know fact of major incident.
    As for “the bunch thugs” that is an organized institution, I have this to say “you have misplaced your priority” to go after the person bringing you the news about problems going on to fix the underlying problem. Shame on you.


  2. Woody: has a post about the Shanghai fire icident. It’s not very friendly, but it makes sense:

    JR: Wie du siehst, habe ich mitgelesen.

    To everyone: to blog can be fun. But it can also be HELPFUL. Keep the public up-to-date.


  3. The legislative isn’t really a legislative, Woody, is it? It rarely passes legislation that hasn’t been passed by the politbureau previously. Rather, the NPC harmoniously picks up grievances from the grassroots, provided that these don’t make the politbureau lose face. If it could make the big guys lose face, the only way for the grassroot people is to go right to Zhongnanhai for petitioning, and that usually gets them into detention centers, “for a cleaner city”.

    And the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference is only consultative, anyway. The executive branch, i. e. the state council, is not always available for consultative exchanges, either.

    Danke für das Mitlesen und Posten, Tai De.


  4. When it comes to NGOs the CCP prefers them to be GONGOs – Government Organised Non Government Organisations – a political oxymoron. If they don’t co-operate or won’t co-operate with the government, things won’t go well.
    A British women who set up a charity I interviewed recently was telling me about the great support they had from the government. It’s taken 2 years, but the government is planning on registering the organisation officially as an NGO. And she also mentioned the legislation was changing to make it easier for NGOs to register. But, I still think NGOs supporting a certain cause, such as AIDS, that may flag up problems in China won’t be benefiting from these changes.


  5. If they don’t co-operate or won’t co-operate with the government, things won’t go well.

    Putting it that way round would suggest that the government stands ready for cooperation with any organization under the law. But the real case is the other way round. The NGO to-be has to “win the trust” of those who may certify its establishment – and to keep maintaining that “trust” all the time. Legislation concerning NGOs has been in existence since the late 1990s / first half of this decade respectively.

    No matter how much further the existing law will be detailed – and no matter to which degree there will be binding standards by which the legality of an NGO project needs to be judged by the civil affairs departments and organizational sponsors, the latter of which which is almost always a related government agency, too, these departments will usually make sure that the NGOs will remain legally vulnerable, to be able to close them down at will any time, without a need to account for their decisions themselves. As long as an NGO in course of formation isn’t really big, the stakeholders in the process will usually be the local authorities.

    My guess is that even bigger foreign charities will to some degree have to keep operating on an uncertain legal basis.

    You won’t hear many NGO people raise such issues, until they are actually closed down, and when there isn’t much to lose anymore.
    On the other hand, they may prefer to keep silent even then, as there may be new rounds of negotiations.



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