Posts Tagged ‘Yuwen Li’

China’s new foreign NGO law bound to make things worse for ‘sensitive’ human rights defenders

April 8, 2015

Maya Wang (twitter @wang_maya), a China researcher at Human Rights Watch, published on 8 April 2105 an interesting post under the title “China’s new foreign NGO law will help silence critics“.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Willem Velthoven.

Some years back I participated in an interesting meeting with Chinese academics in Beijing about exactly this issue of the status of NGOs in China. The meeting resulted in a book ‘NGOs in China and Europe’ (exceptionally also published in Chinese!) edited by Yuwen Li and published by Ashgate in 2011 (ISBN: 978-1-4094-1959-4). Although almost all participants agreed that the current regime for establishing associations is too cumbersome and too heavy-handed for Chinese civil society to flourish, the Government made clear that its main concern remained with what Maya calls ‘sensitive’ NGOs. Those working on issue that are even faintly related to human rights or smack of possible activism, especially when funded from abroad, are seen as a danger and should be subject tot maximum control. That seems to be born out by the draft of the long-awaited ‘Foreign NGOs Administration Law’, likely to be adopted this year and of which Human Rights Watch obtained a copy.

As Maya states, it has never been easy to run an independent organisation in China. The risks of being arbitrarily shut down or harassed are high, as shown by the arrest on 8 March of five women’s rights activists and a 24 March raid on an NGO that supports their work in Beijing. But the absence of a national law governing NGOs, coupled with differences in attitudes towards NGOs by regional leaders, have afforded some leeway for those with creative strategies. It has been common for ‘sensitive’ NGOs to register as a business to bypass the wary eyes of the state, or not register at all. And over the years, some international funding to these organisations in China has been tolerated.

 

Especially ‘sensitive’ NGOs have been unable to access domestic funding sources because they are not legally registered as a nonprofit and anyway those who did want to fund would receive official harassment. The new Foreign NGOs Administration Law is bound to end the funding lifeline that allowed more outspoken NGOs to operate.

The draft law is likely to significantly tighten the Government’s control over civil society says Maya: “If approved, the Ministry of Public Security (not the Ministry of Civil Affairs) will now have the power to supervise and approve registration of foreign NGOs. That ‘supervision’ can entail entering the premises of the foreign NGO at any point, questioning its staff, and copying or seizing any document, all tactics more commonly reserved for a criminal investigation. Foreign NGOs will have to submit for approval annual work plans and funding allocations, and will be prohibited from engaging in a range of peaceful activities, from raising funds or accepting donations in-country to recruiting volunteers or trying to recruit members ‘directly or indirectly.’” Violations of these prescriptions mean that an NGO’s representative in China would be liable to punishments, including a 15-day detention.

“The draft law is another step towards the Chinese Government’s ‘differentiated management’ model of NGOs, in which domestic groups working on issues approved by the state, such as charities for people with disabilities, can register easily and are considered for increased state funding and support.  But those engaged on rights or lobbying are stifled. The draft explicitly prohibits activities that ‘endanger…national security, unity and solidarity’ or that ‘go against China’s social morality’. These are vague terms, but ones frequently used to silence peaceful government critics and activists.”

China’s new foreign NGO law will help silence critics.

China Update: human rights defenders suffer but Ukraine is not (yet) an example

February 26, 2014

On the heels of my post yesterday on Cao Shunli‘s health (https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/02/25/serious-concern-for-health-of-detained-human-rights-defender-cao-shunli/), exiled, blind Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng laments that China is cracking down harder than ever on human rights defenders, but says (somewhat unrealistically I should add) that the leadership should brace for a Ukraine-style uprising. “It is possible for the Chinese to have a similar revolution to the one in Ukraine. It could happen any time,” Chen told Nina Larson of AFP on 25 February in Geneva. “There are many, so very man arrests“, mentioning just as an example the arrest late last month of the parents of human rights activist Xue Mingkai, who had spent four years in prison for joining a banned party. While in custody, the father, Xue Fushun, plunged to his death from a window several stories up, in what police said was a suicide.

Frontline Defenders informed us a bit earlier that on 29 January 2014, the verdicts were released in the trials of human rights defenders, Mr Yuan Dong and Ms Hou Xin, both of whom are affiliated with the New Citizens’ Movement and had been facing charges of “gathering a crowd to disrupt public order”. Yuan Dong was sentenced to 18 months in prison, whilst Hou Xin was found guilty but did not receive a sentence.  Yuan Dong and Hou Xin were originally detained, along with  Zhang Baocheng and Ma Xinli, on charges of “illegal assembly” on 31 March 2013 [http://www.frontlinedefenders.org/node/22993]  after banners with slogans such as “require officials to publicly disclose public assets” were allegedly unfurled during a rally in Xidan Cultural Plaza in Beijing’s Xicheng district. Hou Xin had only been photographically documenting the rally.

Besides the recent sentencing to four years imprisonment of one of the founders of the New Citizens’ Movement, Mr Xu Zhiyong, many more human rights defenders affiliated with the movement remain in detention (https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/01/24/xu-zhiyongs-closing-statement-to-the-court-a-remarkable-document/)

On the other hand, on 25 February 2014 it was confirmed that Ilham Tohti (feared disappeared) has now been formally arrested on charges of  “splitting the country” and is being held in a detention centre in Xinjiang province. (https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/02/12/has-uyghur-professor-ilham-tohti-disappeared-in-china/

For the full interview with Chen: http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5jLVlcgDJvTALGKEGE8kNJd3E43cA?docId=baf85933-271a-42b9-8e34-8210a195cbee

By the way China’s extraordinary sensitivity to ‘interference’ of any level into what it considers its domestic affairs is well-known. I touched upon this hot’ topic’ in my own 2011 article “The international human rights movement: not perfect, but a lot better than many governments think” in the book ‘NGOs in China and Europe’ (exceptionally also published in Chinese!): Yuwen Li (ed), Ashgate, 2011, pp 287-304 (ISBN: 978-1-4094-1959-4).

The (eternal) humanitarian intervention debate moves to Reykjavik in April

March 7, 2013

The Institute for Cultural Diplomacy and the Ministry of Interior of Iceland organise the Reykjavík Congress on the topic: “Human Rights: Human Rights Protection & International Law: The Multifaceted Dilemma of Restraining and Promoting International Interventions”, in Reykjavik, Iceland from 10 to 13 April 2013.

It aims to argue and debate the notion of the responsibility to protect from a human rights perspective, taking into account the divergent dimensions in restraining or promoting international intervention. It plans to consider the current most vehement cases of human rights violations, and further comprehend the varied issues and approaches to these mass atrocities and crimes against humanity from a theoretical perspective, analyzing the complex layers and structures, and taking into account the ethical dilemma surrounding the responsibility to protect and international intervention. For more information please visit: www.reykjavikcongress.org

I would add that this is a most interesting and of course always ‘hot’ topic. I touched upon it in my own article “The international human rights movement: not perfect, but a lot better than many governments think” in the book ‘NGOs in China and Europe’. That the book was published also in Chinese makes it more interesting in view of the strong anti-intervention position taken by the Chinese Government: “Clearly, sovereignty is and remains one of the central organising principles of the international system as we know it. At the same time, there can be no doubt that the very idea and doctrine of internationally protected human rights is a powerful limitation. There is a clear tension between human rights law and general international law. The concept of the sovereignty of States and the principle of non-intervention in internal affairs is laid down in Art 2(7) of the UN Charter, but the qualifying word ‘essentially’ should be noted. Moreover, the Security Council may use the existence of a threat to international peace and security to take action, which overrides sovereignty. From the beginning of the 20th century, international human rights NGOs played a major role in this process of norm shifting, from the Dumbarton Oaks Conference up to the recent debates on the ‘right to inference’ (droit d’ingerence ). After decades of slow but steady development, the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action in 1993 confirmed that human rights are a ‘legitimate international concern’. Of course, this short chapter cannot settle the complex debate surrounding the issue of sovereignty and intervention, but it demonstrates that it is far from static and that the international human rights movement is an active ingredient in its development.” (from: Yuwen Li (ed), NGOs in China and Europe, Ashgate, 2011, pp 287-304 (ISBN: 978-1-4094-1959-4).