NGOs must reassure Beijing that they do not seek a political role

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 09 March, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 09 March, 2010, 12:00am

News of a directive issued by Beijing's education commission blacklisting Oxfam as an organisation 'trying hard to infiltrate China' ('Officials warned university over Oxfam interns', February 26) has dealt a blow to the country's international image as one of the world's leading nations.

While the pretext given for the move against Oxfam was the non-governmental organisation's 'ulterior motives', the real reason was political in nature. In a fast-developing country with 1.3 billion people, it is understandable that Beijing's main concern is to maintain stability.

However, some 2,000 unregistered NGOs in the country have all along been struggling for survival because of the stringent registration requirements that are imposed on them.

Some NGOs have been closed down under the pretext of illegal association, tax evasion and conducting unauthorised surveys.

The recent tightening of procedures for sending foreign funds to charities on the mainland has led to increased hardship for NGOs that are operating on a shoestring budget.

Looking at the event from a broad perspective, the Chinese government has every reason to keep foreign NGOs under government leadership.

But NGOs must try to maintain their independence and, at the same time, reassure the government about their activities.

They need to strike a balance between helping the needy and maintaining stability. They must place strong emphasis on making their work transparent.

On the other hand, China should make an effort to learn about the history, culture and characteristics of NGOs.

Countries the world over have paid due respect to these organisations and their altruistic and self-sacrificing workers.

Beijing should accept that the disaster relief work and follow-up rehabilitation services provided by NGOs in Sichuan are trustworthy testimonials.

Some NGOs might be carrying out illegal activities but they are the exception rather than the rule.

In view of the negative impact caused by the problems Google has had on the mainland, Beijing would do well to maintain an open mind towards NGOs to avoid criticisms that our socialist mother country is now targeting vulnerable do-gooders in a helping profession.

Patsy Leung, Mid-Levels