Qian Gang: China’s Guerrilla Debate over “Illegal Organizations”
Being deemed an “illegal organization” in China can result in a quick shuttering of a group by authorities. Gongmeng (Open Constitution Initiative), Xu Zhiyong’s legal defense organization is a case in point. Yet what if an “illegal organization” is run by the authorities themselves? The story can be quite different, as Qian Gang reports on China Media Project:
Under strict censorship controls, the vast majority of Chinese journalists are suffocated with a silent fury over such trumped up allegations. But this week instead we’ve seen the opposite — media aggressively opening fire on a so-called “illegal organization.”
On August 26, the Beijing News reported that Zhao Yang (赵阳), a member of the City Administrative Department of Nanjing’s Xuanwu District – this is the office that runs the local brigades of non-police ‘city inspectors’ charged with keeping public order in China’s urban neighborhoods – had been charged with organizing an online “national joint session of city administrative department heads.” Zhao had dared to hold an event without proper registration and in the name of a social group, so this amounted to the act of “illegal organization.”
The reporter following up on the story came across this organization’s statutes. They discovered that the organization had a founding chairman, an honorary chairman, a rotating chairmanship, a managing director, a deputy director, an executive council and so on. It had set up an administrative headquarters, and even had a membership fee system in place. It had already held three national conferences, had issued awards and conferred titles. It had decided on national standards for city inspector identification. For all intents and purposes, it was the national guild for city inspectors in China.
The report caused an uproar. For the authorities to see “illegal organizations” as thorns in their side, that was one thing. But it seemed like a great big joke for government officials like city administrative department heads to be participating in such organizations. The media followed up on the story and found that the organization behind these joint sessions was in fact a private company, which was scooping up all of the funds. A private company boss, in other words, had been toying with city administrative department heads across the country, offering public relations and crisis management services to address the poor public image of city inspectors.
Read more about the “city inspectors,” or “chengguan” via CDT.