Despite the lack of full democracy, Hong Kong has nevertheless maintained itself as a relatively free society in which the government is expected to show a certain level of appreciation for the demands of the people. Hong Kong's civil society and the many non-governmental organisations have played a large part in drawing attention to grass-roots issues which need resolving, scrutinising government performance in these areas, as well as participating in political debate to bring about an orderly transition towards greater democracy. Where the government fails in certain policy areas, there are usually NGOs which do their best to fill the needs and redress social ills.
On the mainland, while local NGOs continue to do their best within the circumstances, tight government oversight keeps them from developing further, according to a recent survey by the Beijing-based, Corporate Citizenship in Action. Since the early 2000s, when there were a number of 'colour revolutions' in the former Soviet republics, Beijing has restricted the funding of local NGOs from international foundations. Meanwhile, although local enterprises are now more conscientious about donating to NGOs, 44 per cent of respondents said they would first consult with different levels of the government to evaluate the political risks of supporting a particular NGO. More than 80 per cent of local NGOs said government supervision was the biggest obstacle to fund-raising.
These obstacles are counterproductive to the Chinese government's mantra for social harmony. With the greater affluence and awareness of public affairs, Chinese citizens now expect social injustices to be addressed. NGOs not only assist the people in alleviating social grievances, but also assist the government in maintaining social harmony by providing peaceful ways to draw attention to those issues. An organised petition is surely more desirable than a desperate vigilante attempt to draw attention to a grievance. NGOs and civic groups are the glue that keeps societies together, allowing for greater economic and democratic reforms.