Asia Times looks at the state of NGOs in China, in the wake of the shutdown of Gongmeng legal assistance group:
It could be argued that Gongmeng was an isolated case of government interference in China’s NGOs, but a report on disaster relief fund management by Deng Guosheng, associate professor of Tsinghua University’s School of Public Management and Policy, tells a different story
According to Deng’s study, by November 2008, public donations to help disaster relief in the aftermath of the Sichuan earthquake in May last year, many made through NGOs, totaled some 65.252 billion yuan (US$9.5 billion) – excluding donations in kind. However, about 58% of the total (37.9 billion yuan) went to various government agencies, 36% went to government-designated Red Cross organizations, charities and foundations and only 5.9% ended up with local foundations less affiliated to the government.
Deng found that part of the 36% that went to government-designated organizations in fact eventually went to government departments. Some specifically-designated donations were even ultimately channeled to government units for “the purpose of overall planning”. Altogether, according to the report, more than 80% of total relief donations ultimately ended up in government accounts.
Thus, ironically, while Beijing encourages NGOs to play a bigger role in disaster relief (which is non-political), government departments and officials have found ways to keep NGO hands off relief funds donated by the public.