China’s Crackdown on Nonprofit Groups Prompts New Fears Among Activists

The Washington Post looks at the recent crackdown on non-governmental organizations and the decision by AIDS activist Wan Yanhai to leave China rather than endure continued harassment of himself and his organization: In the 1990s, at the time of the country’s economic opening, Chinese leaders actively encouraged the formation of grass-roots groups that could assist the government in areas where it was weak. And thousands of NGOs sprang forth, mostly tiny mom-and-pop, kitchen-table operations, largely unregulated and often receiving funds from overseas donors eager to assist in the growth of Chinese civil society. Strict Chinese government rules make it extremely difficult for groups to register officially as NGOs; most register instead as “companies.” The government has largely turned a blind eye. And there has long been a kind of tacit understanding that NGOs would be tolerated as long as they didn’t stray too far into political activism or criticizing the government. But as Young said, “You never know where the line is, and it does shift.” Added Wan Yanhai: “I think there’s no clear boundary between a political and a non-political organization. And there’s no clear boundary between action-oriented and advocacy.” ...
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