Taken together, the raids appear part of a tightening of controls on critical voices in the run-up to Oct. 1, the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. The two NGOs are among a growing number here using the law to hold authorities to account on issues such as food safety, patient rights, and illegal detention.
But they share another common thread: Both received grants from American and other foreign donors. The tax fine for Open Constitution Initiative, the group headed by Mr. Xu, was assessed largely on a donation from Yale Law School. Xu, a lawyer and elected legislator, is being detained on suspicion of tax evasion, according to an OCI official.
The harassment of these and other foreign-funded NGOs in Beijing has raised fears of a Russian-style squeeze on civil society. […]
An alternate view in Beijing is that the groups targeted had pushed too aggressively into forbidden political zones, setting off a reaction. NGO workers and experts on civil society say the investigations into taxes and licenses are a smokescreen for a clampdown on legal activism, including the recent disbarring of 20 civil rights lawyers in Beijing.