Rights group management crisis deepens

PUBLISHED : Monday, 17 January, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 17 January, 2005, 12:00am

More Human Rights in China senior members quit amid claims it has strayed from original mission

The management shake-up that has left US-based Human Rights in China facing the biggest crisis in its 16-year history has intensified, with eight members of the executive committee resigning amid allegations that the group has strayed from its mission.

Last Friday's resignations came after three of its five directors - the latest being prominent scientist Fang Lizhi , who handed in his notice last Monday - quit after a failed attempt to dislodge the group's president, Liu Qing .

Those who resigned in the latest round were five serving members of the executive committee - Tsung Su, Su Xiaokang, Tong Yi-su, Guo Luoji and Li Xiaorong - and three non-voting honorary members - Cheng Hsin-yuan, Zhang Weiguo and Huang Mab .

Two former honorary board members, Liu Binyan and Wang Dan, also signed the joint letter of resignation.

In the letter, the 10 said HRIC's 'internal functioning lacks transparency and accountability', adding it 'has departed from the universal, non-partisan, non-political ideals of human rights that we espouse and support'.

The letter also said the board of directors had failed to address the 'irregularities of the bylaws' which resulted in Liu Qing leading the group for the past 13 years, 'leaving the current president without full legitimacy for his exercise of power'.

One board member said: 'We do not intend to 'destroy' the group [HRIC]. But when privately funded groups do not operate according to their own bylaws, public opinion [the press] may help exert public pressure. Leaving the group and letting the world know the problems is one way to ensure the group can grow healthily. This may be the only choice we have now.' Sharon Hom, executive director of HRIC, said the group was in the process of making a 'transition' to a smaller management board.

'A very large board can be non-functional, especially when some board members didn't attend the annual board meeting or make any contributions to the work of HRIC for years,' she said. As for the legitimacy of Liu Qing's 13-year presidency, Ms Hom said HRIC bylaws did not limit the term of office, on the assumption that the president would be re-appointed. 'I'm surprised that the executive community failed to raise the issue a long time ago,' she said.

Board member Andrew Nathan said the executive committee had been working on an orderly transition plan to replace Liu Qing, since he wanted to retire in two years.

'[When Liu Qing's dismissal was raised] I made a motion to appoint a committee to continue work on this transition plan, because, in my view, the responsible thing for a board to do is not to dismiss a staff leader all of a sudden and without evidence and careful thinking, but instead, to plan for an orderly transition,' he said.

Mr Nathan noted that only five board members resigned in the latest round, along with three non-voting honorary members. 'The board has been strengthened with the election of three new members [Robin Munro, Christine Loh Kung-wai and lawyer Li Jinjin].'