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Yaxue Cao, January 27, 2020 Last month, on December 7 and 8, around 20 Chinese men and women from around the country gathered in the southeastern city of Xiamen. Among them were lawyers and those of other professions. They met in a private home, discussing current events and policy, public affairs, and China’s political trajectory. They shared their experiences about their involvement with citizens’ activities. In a normal country, these activities are ordinary. Yet in the eyes of the Communist Party, they amount to subversive conspiracy. It’s said that in China, the police are unable to find women or children who have been abducted, but they know exactly and in real time where democracy activists eat, with whom they talk, and what they say on […]


After leaving China Women News, Lü Pin began to work with women intellectuals pioneering women’s rights advocacy in the 1990s and 2000s. In 2009, Lü Pin founded ‘Feminist Voice.’ Its sharp interpretation of women issues through a feminist lens attracted many young educated women. A small NGO called ‘One-yuan Commune’ was established in Beijing that quickly became a springboard for street activism from 2012 to 2015.


Yaxue Cao, April 17, 2018     On April 10, China’s State Administration of Radio and Television ordered the permanent closure of the Neihan Duanzi (translated roughly as ‘quirky skits’) app and website. In its announcement, the authorities denounced the app and its public WeChat account as having an “improper orientation and vulgar style” that supposedly “evoked the great disgust of netizens.” Though the Chinese government has closed numerous popular entertainment websites over the last couple of years, the targeting of Neihan Duanzi triggered a storm of discontent, and observers said that the authorities had “stirred up a hornet’s nest.” The episode has brought to wider attention a large, little-known group in society, and observers are trying to grapple with its social and political significance. […]


China Change, April 15, 2018     A WeChat group dedicated to raising money for Chinese prisoners of conscience and their families has recently been shut down by Chinese police, and its administrators targeted. One of the administrators of the ‘National Tourism Chat Group’ (全国旅游群), Guo Qingjun (郭庆军), was arrested by domestic security police in Changchun, Jilin Province, at his workplace on April 11. Guo’s wife, Zhang Yuying (张宇英), sent out a message that the couple’s house had been raided and Guo’s computer confiscated. At least seven other individuals associated with the group from around China have also been targeted, including Bao Luo (保罗), Lu Bi (卢比), Liu Chunlin (刘春林), Dai Xiangnan (戴湘南), Sun Wenke (孙文科), Li Xiaohong (李小红), and an individual known as Meizi […]


Andrea Worden, March 14, 2018   “Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms.” –– UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders     The Chinese government attacks human rights defenders (HRDs) – those who peacefully defend and promote human rights – on a range of fronts. First, and most critically, are the government’s attacks on HRDs at home. The relentless crackdown on human rights defenders has gone from bad to worse under Xi Jinping, and we can expect the downward trend to accelerate now that Xi is no longer constrained by term limits. While the resilience of China’s beleaguered HRDs is remarkable, their numbers are shrinking; a few […]


Mo Zhixu, February 4, 2018   “Rather, reform has been used as a kind of calibrating tool for the system to retain complete control in the political, economic, social, and cultural spheres.”   In 1981, Polish president Wojciech Jaruzelski ordered a crackdown on the growing Solidarity movement. Eight years later, under pressure of internal unrest as well as a cultural thaw in the Soviet Union, the Polish Communist government and Solidarity held roundtable talks. On June 4, 1989, free parliamentary elections were held in Poland and the Communists suffered a crushing defeat. Jaruzelski resigned in 1990 and Solidarity leader Lech Wałęsa took his place as president. Poland marked its transition to democracy without shedding a drop of blood. Poland’s case is unique among the political […]


Yaxue Cao, January 15, 2018       As of January 15, 2018, human rights lawyer Wang Quanzhang (王全璋) had been held incommunicado for 920 days. This makes him the only 709 detainee who hasn’t been heard from since the notorious 709 Crackdown began in July 2015. Last Friday, two lawyers, a former client, and three wives of 709 victims travelled from Beijing to arrive early morning at the First Detention Center in Tianjin, a half hour ride by high-speed train. The sun had risen, and a rich orange hue cloaked everything. A large-character slogan ran the length of the walls of the Detention Center: “Be Loyal to the Party, Serve the People, Enforce the Law with Fairness.” They were the first visitors waiting for […]


Xu Zhiyong, November 19, 2017   Dr. Xu Zhiyong (许志永) was released on July 15, 2017 after serving four years for organizing social movements such as the New Citizen Movement and the equal education rights campaign.  He is a 44-year-old legal scholar, a pioneer of China’s rights defense movement, and a founders of the Open Constitution Initiative (Gong Meng 公盟) in 2003 which offers legal assistance to the disempowered and the wronged. — The Editors     After getting out of prison I discovered a pessimistic sentiment in many of my friends. Some of them fled China. Others said that the Chinese people aren’t worth saving. With this totalitarian surveillance state and its repressed people, it feels like history is running in reverse. But I’m an optimist at heart […]


Meng Han, October 11, 2017     Continued from Part One   Governmental Dysfunction and NGO Work In our time of great changes, the term “NGO”—when applied to our Service Center—inevitably has some political connotation. NGO workers have nothing to do with any criminal activities, but have everything to do with governmental dysfunction. It is precisely because of this that we drew attention from society. It is also because of this that the media, scholars, and workers have taken an interest in us and observed our work. As a matter of fact, it is inevitable that NGOs will impact the government in any country. The core issue is in what manner NGOs are making an impact. In my opinion, the involvement of the Service Center […]


Hermann Aubié, August 9, 2017     Dear Xiaobo, About three weeks ago, shortly after the world learned about your terminal liver cancer diagnosis of late May 2017, you died aged 61 in the Northeast region of China where you were born. As the poet Tang Danhong wrote, you departed as “an innocent prisoner into the eternal light” (无罪的囚徒,融入永恒的光芒). What a cruel tragedy to live out your last days in a hospital bed under lock and key after fighting most of your life for freedom and human rights! Although I’ve never had the chance to meet you in person, I feel like I’ve lost someone very close to me, as if your death has torn away a part of myself. While you were behind bars […]


January 3, 2017 This Q & A can be read as a companion piece to the Guardian report. It focuses more on Dahlin’s work, the interrogations, and the legal features of his case. Given that China’s “Law on the Management of Foreign Non-Governmental Organizations” took effect on January 1, 2017, we hope the conversation offers insight and perspective. – The Editors     CHINA CHANGE: Peter, you are a Swedish national; on January 3, 2016, you were taken into custody by Chinese national security agents for allegedly “endangering national security.” It was not until nine days later that the international press reported that you had been disappeared on your way to the Beijing airport. Then, on January 15 and 19, the Global Times and the […]


Guo Yushan, September 22, 2016     On September 22, after nearly two years in detention and a trial in August, lawyer Xia Lin (夏霖), my friend, will finally face his sentence. Whatever he’s been charged with, it’s clear to everyone that it was only because he defended me that he has been imprisoned, and suffered as he has to this day. In May 2014, Xia Lin got dragged into a number of disputes because of his involvement in Pu Zhiqiang’s (浦志强) case. One day in mid June, me, Xia Lin, and Kaiping (黄凯平) were sharing drinks at Beijing Worker’s Stadium, lamenting Pu’s case. At a break in the conversation, Xia Lin suddenly said to me: “If you get sent to prison in the future, […]


China Change, September 1, 2016 Human rights cannot be treated as a stand-alone issue anymore.   President Obama is going to China again, this time to attend the G-20 summit on September 4 and 5 in Hangzhou. Every time the President, the National Security Adviser, or the Secretary of State visits China, or every time Chinese leaders visit the U.S., human rights organizations and activists, inside and outside China, take it as an opportunity for change, asking the President or the senior leaders to pressure the Chinese government for human rights improvements, and to raise a number of individual cases. To be sure, the administration makes an effort to hear from activists and NGOs. Just two days ago, for instance, National Security Advisor Susan Rice met with Chinese […]


Yaxue Cao, July 26, 2016 Li Tingting (李婷婷), also known as Li Maizi (李麦子), is one of the “Feminist Five” in China who were detained on the eve of the International Women’s Day in 2015; they were planning a protest against sexual harassment on public transportation, which is insidiously prevalent in China. The women were released after 37 days in detention following an unprecedented international outcry. I met with Li Tingting recently over a Sunday brunch, and we spoke about her detention, women’s rights, LGBT advocacy, and civil society. — The Editors YC: Let’s begin from your experiences during the arrest of the Feminist Five on March 6. Li Tingting: At that time my girlfriend and I were living in a rental. The police came […]


André Gattonlin, Marie Holzman, and Noël Mamère, July 18, 2016 This is a translation of Donnons le prix Sakharov à un intellectuel ouïghour published in the French newspaper Libération on July 14, 2016. – The Editors   The Sakharov Prize is awarded every year in October, to honor individuals or organizations who have dedicated their lives to defending human rights and fundamental freedoms. The award, which was created in 1985 by the French MP Jean-François Deniau, may well be awarded this year to an Uighur intellectual who was sentenced in 2014 to life in prison. It turns out that this professor from Minzu University (University for Nationalities) in Beijing had been discovered in 2008 by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and was invited to spend […]


By Yaxue Cao, published: February 14, 2016   She is a renowned public interest lawyer, a pioneer of China’s NGO movement, a defender of women’s rights, a writer, a legislative advocate, a recipient of some of the world’s top awards for women, and her work has been recognized and supported by the likes of the United Nations. What could go wrong? Everything. On January 29 a message on WeChat read that Zhongze had been ordered to close before the Spring Festival by the “relevant authorities.” Not long after this, the head of the Center, Guo Jianmei (郭建梅) sent out a WeChat message: “Announcement: Beijing Zhongze Women’s Legal Counseling Service Center  (众泽妇女法律咨询服务中心) will close from February 1, 2016. Thank you to everyone for your attention and […]


Who the activists are, and why the government is striking hard against their NGOs By Yaxue Cao, published: December 10, 2015     Chinese police on December 3 began a series of sudden raids of labor rights organizations in Guangdong, questioning at least 25 staff members and managers of about five organizations, according to labor activists and lawyers in the area. Three individuals—Zeng Feiyang (曾飞洋), Zhu Xiaohai (朱小梅) and He Xiaobo (何晓波)—were confirmed to be criminally detained. On December 7, Deng Xiaoming (邓小明) was criminally detained, while two other NGO staff members are still in police custody and their status remains uncertain. The father, wife, and older brother of Zeng Feiyang have all been interrogated by police. Peng Jiayong (彭家勇) also may have been criminally […]


by overseas Chinese organizations in the greater Washington, D.C. region 5 pm, Thursday, August 13, 2015 3505 International Place, NW, Washington, DC 20008   Since it began in July, the Chinese Communist Party’s large-scale suppression of human rights lawyers has already gone on for more than a month. With the information we have at hand, we know that over 300 lawyers, law firm staff, and rights defenders have been summoned by police, criminally detained, secretly imprisoned, disappeared, or put under house arrest. And in many cases, their family members, coworkers, or even their own legal counsel were subject to all manner of threats by the police. Meanwhile, the authorities have used the media they control to judge the victims before trial, misleading the public with […]


By Lu Chai, published: May 21, 2015 “[F]ew options remain. You can turn your back on groups that are targeted and in trouble, and continue to advertise your own abstention from all things political. Or you can face up, with honesty, to the reality that civil society has little space to work in, muster your courage, and raise objections.”   The Beijing public security authorities have issued an indictment opinion that hammers the first nail into the coffin for the Chinese nonprofit think tank Transition Institute (TI, 传知行). The opinion recommends that the procuratorate indict Guo Yushan (郭玉闪)and He Zhengjun (何正军)on the charge of “illegal business operation.” There isn’t much to say about the case itself. A lot of solid commentary with a sound command of the law have already been written about the fact that the accused are innocent, and that […]


By Song Zhibiao, published: May 17, 2015 We present you the second commentary out of China on the draft law. The first one, by Dr. Wan Yanhai, one of China’s NGO pioneers, briefly examines the operational path of Chinese NGOs from early 1990s to the present, and how the three recent laws will dead-end rights advocacy NGOs in China. This, it turns out, is what Xi Jinping means by “governing the country according to the law.” – The Editor   Among draft laws currently under a second reading in China’s National Congress of People’s Representative is the People’s Republic of China Foreign Non-Governmental Organizations Management Law (a bilingual version). What’s the merit of this law? Chinese legal professionals specializing in the public interest have given […]


By Wan Yanhai, published: May 13, 2015   In March 2007, Guo Yushan (郭玉闪)and others co-founded Transition Social and Economic Consulting Limited, otherwise known as Beijing Transition Institute. In July 2013, Beijing Bureau of Civil Affairs sent Transition Institute (TI) a violation notice, alleging that the organization had not registered, and was operating publicly as a “private non-enterprise” without legal basis. Four years earlier in 2009, Gongmeng[1] (公盟, or Open Constitution Initiative) was outlawed by the government for the same “reason;” the contents of its entire office, including research data, was confiscated. Falling prey to the same tactics that had affected groups like Aizhixing (爱知行) and Gongmeng, TI was twice the target of audits from Beijing Municipal Tax Bureau, in 2009 and 2013. On October 9, […]


By Beijing Yirenping Center, April 14, 2015   On April 14, Hong Lei, the Spokesman for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), stated publicly that our organization, Beijing Yirenping Center (BYC), “has allegedly violated the law, and will be punished.” Our organization’s response is as follows: 1.  We welcome MOFA in its open discussion on BYC, as this is an improvement upon the break-in raid into our office, in the early hours of March 24. 2.  BYC will take the accusation from MOFA seriously. We will hire legal counsel to respond in accordance with China’s laws, as well as pursue the March 24 office raid. 3.  Since BYC’s founding in 2006, we have been the target of rigorous “solicitude” from various departments and levels of […]


A translation of a VOA report in Chinese, published: March 11, 2015 Professor Xia Min of CUNY: “Xi’s fear is exactly that the maturing of civil society will organically provide, with the organizing capacity and solidarity within Chinese society, a platform for the building of political parties.”   A documentary produced by the well-known investigative journalist Chai Jing, formerly with CCTV, Under the Dome, has struck a deep chord in China. At the end of the documentary, Chai mentions that as China’s revised Environmental Protection Law is implemented, civil society environmental groups will have the unprecedented right to bring public interest lawsuits against polluting companies. However, according to a Beijing News (《新京报》) article [1], since the law went into effect in January 2015, only three […]


By Zhai Minglei, published: February 4, 2015 (Chinese original was published in October, 2014.) Get a glimpse of one of the quietest but most admirable NGO activists in China who has been held incommunicado since October 10th, 2014. – The Editor     At this very moment, I am in Shanghai, jotting down some memories of mine. In China, some people are often silently disappeared for what their conscience has led them to do, and this is more terrifying than death. In the last two days, two of my good friends, Guo Yushan (郭玉闪) and Kou Yanding (寇延丁), were detained. When something like this happens to your own friends, you feel the sort of anger and helplessness that is difficult to convey unless experienced first-hand. […]


By Xiao Shu, published: January 11, 2015   I no longer have the desire to argue about the treatment of Guo Yushan and his colleagues from a legal perspective. We know that “illegal business practices” was the charge for which Guo was formally arrested on December 6th, after remaining in extralegal detention for more than two months. Back in 2007, the authorities used the same charge to sentence activist Guo Feixiong, while in 2013 it was the charge of “disturbing public order” that landed Xu Zhiyong, Ding Jiaxi, Zhao Changqing and other members of the New Citizens Movement in jail. Today, the charge of “illegal business” has been used on Guo Yushan and, as with before, it is never about the law . The punishment of […]


By Song Zhibiao, published: November 17, 2014 Editor’s update: Liren Rural Libraries announced its closure on September 18, 2014.   The Liren (literally: “cultivating talents”) Rural Libraries, which is devoted to aiding rural students to broaden their reading horizons and expand their learning opportunities, has met with the worst crisis since its founding. Its official Weibo revealed that, at the end of August, eleven Liren Rural Libraries, one after another, have undergone official reviews by such local agencies as the Education Bureau, the Culture Bureau, and the Culture and Sports Bureau. Two of the libraries have already been notified by their partner schools that the schools were terminating their cooperation with the libraries. In additional comments, Li Yingqiang (李英强), who previously served as a responsible […]


By China Change, published: June 26, 2014   Apart from Beijing and Guangzhou, the other Chinese city where large-scale arrests of citizen activists and rights lawyers have taken place is Zhengzhou (郑州), midway on the Beijing-Guangzhou transportation artery and the capital of Henan province (河南省).  Between May 8 and June 21, twelve have been arrested for allegations either of “gathering a crowd to disrupt social order” or of “provoking disturbance” and they include two rights lawyers, two journalists, young internet activists, petitioner-turned-activists, and hosts of civil gatherings and activities, a typical array of China’s social activism in general. One can say that the June 4th anniversary prompted the arrests that occurred across China over the last two months or so because the CCP was afraid […]


By Teng Biao, published: June 22, 2014   June 4th has passed, but the arrests continue, and every day brings bad news from China. While scholar Xu Youyu, artist Chen Guang and others have been released “on probation,” many are still being held and others have been formally arrested, including Jia Lingmin (贾灵敏) and two others in Zhengzhou, Henan, and lawyer Pu Zhiqiang (浦志强) in Beijing. On June 20 in Guangzhou, lawyer Tang Jingling (唐荆陵) and activists Wang Qingying (王清营) and Yuan Xinting (袁新亭) were formally arrested on subversion charges. Earlier this week, three New Citizens Movement participants Liu Ping (刘萍), Wei Zhongping (魏忠平) and Li Sihua (李思华) were harshly sentenced for fictitious “crimes.” Some people explain these arrests as an increase in stability maintenance […]


Yesterday I highlighted some of the exciting developments in Chinese NGOs, and briefly illustrated why they were needed (so far at the conference every speaker has emphasized the growing gap between rich and poor). Today I want to address a few of the challenges. Recently the gov’t has publicly taken a step away from civil society, but in practice remain strong supporters. I think this is partially because of the problems that are being highlighted, and partially because of scandals and fraud within some of these organizations. I think one of the major challenges for these NGOs is that the gov’t has already defined what a “harmonious society” should be, but has not actually engaged in any sort of discussion with the people about what […]


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