Global Times published a lengthy and largely sympathetic article looking at the legal charges against Xu Zhiyong’s Gongmeng (Open Constitution Initiative) group and the plight of NGOs in China today:
What happened to the Open Constitution Initiative has been widely discussed by fellow domestic non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in China.
[…] Some scholars and domestic NGO leaders showed sympathy for the organization, saying Xu had no other choice. It’s extremely difficult to register as an NGO, according to them.
Yu Jianrong, a researcher at the Rural Development Institute, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, stated in an article: “The identity dilemma for the Open Constitution Initiative is a tragedy for our society.”
[…] There were 386,916 official and unofficial NGOs registered with the Ministry of Civil Affairs by the end of 2007. That number only accounts for NGOs registered at civil affairs bureaus across the country. A far larger number of NGOs are either registered at local administrations for industry and commerce or not registered at all, according to Lu.
The Beijing Yirenping Center belongs to the larger group. It was visited by a police officer and two plainclothes officers from the Cultural Market Administrative Law Enforcement Office of Beijing on July 29. The officers said they received a report that the center was involved in publishing without a license. They searched the center and confiscated more than 90 copies of China’s Anti-Discrimination Legal Action Newsletter.
Lu explained to them that printing documents like fliers and newsletters is a major task of NGOs. Otherwise they would not be able to publicize relevant laws and information to the public.
The newsletters were published in small numbers and given out free at seminars, not public places. Therefore they should not be taken as a publication.