Recent moves in China seem designed to ease regulation for local civil society organizations. However, the attitude towards national-level NGOs that receive external funding remains lukewarm. Local experiments, says a paper by Karla Simon and Hang Gao, are being conducted to eliminate the dual management requirement for small community civic organizations (CCOs) in various ways. These include a modified dual management system, a documentation system and a system of registration and management by local Civil Affairs departments.
However, the authors suggest that ‘there may be some difficulties in scaling all of this up to the national level’ – a view that appears to be borne out by increasing restrictions on foreign funding and the climate of official harassment which many, particularly rights-based and public health organizations, have to cope with. AIDS activist Wan Yan Hai, who recently left Beijing for Philadelphia, remarked that government workers from taxmen to firemen were searching his office and harassing him. He had received anonymous threats and, on top of that, new rules making the receipt of foreign donations more difficult for Chinese NGOs had hit his funding hard.
Yu Feng Chong, who runs the Aizhixing Centre devoted to stopping discrimination against Hepatitis B carriers, told NPR News in May: ‘This year, a lot of NGOs like ours have been suppressed. Our allies have fallen one after the other and there is a lot of pressure on us. We keep worrying we’ll be the next to be shut down.’ In the same item, Professor Deng Guo Sheng from Tsinghua University’s NGO Research Centre observed that, ‘for now, China’s NGOs struggle on in a regulatory grey area under a government that is unwilling to completely embrace them or outlaw them’.
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