Monday, November 25, 2013

Civil Society Happenings in China for September and October of 2013

There have been a number of events going on in the civil society sector, too many for me to catalog, but below are some of the events that I and other CDB staff have been involved in over the last few months. November was a particularly busy month for us, so I'll summarize those happenings in a separate posting. I hope this post provides interested onlookers a glimpse into some of the issues being discussed in the sector.

A UNDP Book Launch: Working with Civil Society in Foreign Aid, September 26, 2013
Shawn Shieh, Editor of CDB (English) participated in a book launch of a UNDP China E-Book, Working with Civil Society in Foreign Aid: Possibilities for South-South Cooperation, which was published with the support of Australian AID. The launch was held at the UNDP China office. The author, Brian Tomlinson, of AidWatch China provided an overview of the book, and participants were invited to provide feedback. The UNDP plans to hold more forums on this topic involving other civil society representatives in China.

2nd China Charity Fair, Shenzhen, September 21-23, 2013
Shawn Shieh, Editor of CDB (English), was invited to speak about the operational characteristics of China’ grassroots NGOs at the Charity Fair’s Social Good Summit on “Innovating Philanthropy for Civil Society Development” on September 21, 2013. The Summit was sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the UNDP, and the UN Foundation which were taking part in the Fair for the first time in an effort to internationalize the gathering. The China Charity Fair is the only national gathering of foundations, NGOs, companies, and media interested in promoting philanthropy in China. The organizers include the Ministry of Civil Affairs and the Shenzhen city government. Aside from the Social Good Summit, the Fair featured other forums and salons on various topics related to philanthropy, and booths and displays set up by various foundations, companies and NGOs. While the Fair went smoothly, some participants complained about the top-down nature of the event, the absence of NGOs engaged in more sensitive areas such as legal aid and labor, and the exclusion of one LGBT NGO whose materials were removed from the premises. Details of the Charity Fair can be found on their website at

China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation Forum on its Program to Assist Malnourished Children in Africa, September 29, 2013
CDB Editors, Liu Haiying and Shawn Shieh, were invited, along with other media representatives, to take part in a forum on media strategies regarding CFPA’s program to assist malnourished children in Africa. CFPA, which has already built a hospital in the Sudan, plans to send Chinese volunteers to work in African on this program and held the forum to get feedback on how to deal with the public relations aspect of the program. CFPA is one of the few Chinese NGOs active overseas and has plans to develop into an international NGO.

The 2nd China AIDS Walk, October 13, 2013
CDB organized a team to participate in the 2nd China AIDS Walk. See The China AIDS Walk 2013: Walking to Raise Awareness.

Friday, November 15, 2013

The China AIDS Walk 2013: Walking to Raise Awareness

On a chilly, grey fall morning, my wife and I rose early to join my colleagues at the Dongzhimen subway stop in Beijing for the 2nd annual China AIDS Walk.  We packed a lunch and snacks for the day - peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, apples and trail mix - and hopped into a taxi. When we arrived at the subway stop, we found other participants milling around, collecting their AIDS Walk T-shirts, and waiting to board the sleek tour buses that would take us up to the Jinshanling Great Wall near Chengde, about two hours drive northeast of Beijing. 

Over the next half hour, we were joined by the rest of the China Development Brief team, seven in all, including one staff member from Greenpeace International’s China office who was tagging along. One of our staff also brought her eight-year old son who goes by the English name, Howard. Two colleagues texted to tell us they were not feeling well and would not be able to join us.

My CDB colleagues had been preparing for this day for weeks, and we had one of the larger teams participating with 10 people signed up. Organizing a team was relatively easy. You went onto the China AIDS Walk website,, and registered a team. Team members were asked to make a minimum online donation to the Walk.  We could also ask their friends and family to make a donation to the Walk to support our team.

When my colleagues first told me about the Walk, I wasn’t sure why they were so excited about the event. These types of fundraising events were commonplace in the U.S. where I grew up. Then over the last few weeks, I began reading more about it, and had the chance to talk with staff at the Beijing Gender Health Institute, a grassroots NGO that is the driving force behind the China AIDS Walk, and I gradually began to realize what made the Walk so special.

The idea of an AIDS Walk was conceived in the U.S. The first AIDS Walk took place in Los Angeles in 1985. Since then, over a hundred AIDS Walks have taken place in communities around the U.S. and in other countries. According to the AIDS Walk Los Angeles website, the idea for the Walk was conceived by Craig Miller, a community activist whose approach was to combine “grassroots activism with fundraising and other campaign strategies to raise both awareness and urgently needed funds for the fight against AIDS.”  

That animating idea nicely describes the thinking of the organizers of the China AIDS Walk who “believe that social progress is achieved not by a few people doing a lot, but by may people doing a little.” Not surprisingly, Xiaogang, the Gender Health Institute’s executive director, was inspired to bring the Walk to China after participating in the AIDS Walk in San Francisco.  For Xiaogang, the AIDS Walk is part of a larger organizational strategy to bring together public advocacy, fundraising and community participation to address challenges in medical care and discrimination faced by those living with AIDS, as well as the LGBT community in China. Thus, in addition to organizing the Walk, the Institute is also engaged in educating journalists to report on AIDS and LGBT issues, and has a Queer China and Queer University program to encourage the use of media and film to shine a sympathetic light on the AIDS and LGBT community.

To understand why bringing the Walk to China is so significant, we only need to consider how challenging the Walk’s aims are: public advocacy, public fundraising, public participation, community organizing, and raising awareness about marginalized and vulnerable communities. And we are talking here about a grassroots NGO doing this, not the government. In China, all of these things can be sensitive, if not illegal.

Take what appears to be the most innocuous goal of public fundraising. The vast majority of NGOs in China, whether registered or not, are not permitted by law to engage in public fundraising. Only a small number of public fundraising foundations, most of them with close ties to the government, are authorized to do so. In addition, engaging in advocacy in public spaces, and inviting large numbers of people to join in, is very difficult, if not impossible in China.

In spite of these challenges, the organizers of the Walk managed to carry out an event that accomplished their aims, not once but twice. They organized a Walk on the Great Wall in 2012 that drew around 120 participants and raised more than 160,000 yuan. This year’s walk held on October 13 surpassed the 2012 numbers. It attracted more than 200 participants, about 150 of whom actually showed up to walk for about three hours on the Jinshanling Great Wall, and has so far raised more than 200,000 yuan which will be used to pay for the organizing costs and for medical treatment for those living with AIDS. How did they do it?  The answer: by collaborating and being strategic.

Collaboration involved partnering with a government-backed public fundraising foundation. In 2012, that partner was the China Foundation for Prevention of STD/AIDS. This year, it was the China Population Welfare Foundation. This partnership allowed the organizers to fundraise legally through a special fund set up in the Foundation, and made it easier to get approvals to carry out the Walk. Being strategic meant choosing a “non-sensitive” area outside of Beijing’s administrative borders. The Jinshanling Great Wall was chosen because it was close to Beijing but part of Chengde city’s administration.

The participants in the Walk this year were a diverse and colorful bunch. They included foreigners and Chinese, children and the elderly, gay and straight, the healthy and those infected with AIDS, and one person dressed as a bright blue condom. Some dressed up in flamboyant outfits, while others waved China AIDS Walk flags and banners. Some of the younger walkers like Howard dashed up the steep steps leading to the towers while others took their time, taking in the view of the Wall as it snaked its way up and down the spines of the distant hills. There were even small events held at some of the watchtowers, such as a Beijing opera performance, and “Free Hugs” for those infected with AIDS.

At the end of the walk, some of the participants, including the man-sized blue condom, gathered on a makeshift stage to do a line dance to pop music. As we watched the dance, one of the walkers summed up the day when he said, “How many times do you see this happen in China?”  

(This article was also posted to the China Development Brief website.)

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

On the Eve of the Third Plenum, Are We Seeing a Depoliticization of the NGO Sector?

As we approach the much ballyhooed Third Plenum, here's my latest Policy Brief commenting on regulatory trends in the NGO sector and thoughts about what the Third Plenum should bring for China's NGOs.
In our last Policy Brief issued December 2012, we noted the continuation of “social management innovation” initiatives after the 18th Party Congress. The general idea behind “social management innovation,” which is also mentioned prominently in the 12th Five Year Plan (2011-2015), is to encourage the party-state at all levels to be more proactive in reaching out to NGOs (or what the government calls “social organizations”) in addressing common social goals. The party-state recognizes that it cannot address all of China’s daunting social problems and is beginning to realize the value of working with NGOs to provide social services to better “serve the people.”
We are now a few days away from the critical Third Plenum of the 18th Communist Party of China’s (CPC) Central Committee. The Third Plenum has historically been the meeting at which major reforms have been launched. What can we expect for social management innovations in the NGO sector after the Third Plenum? Our answer: more or less a continuation of what we have seen in recent years.
 Over the last few years, social management innovations undertaken by the central and local governments have been quickening. Those innovations have generally come in three forms. One is reforms to lower barriers to NGO registration for certain categories of NGOs.  A second is the ramping up of government contracting of social services to NGOs.  A third is building the capacity and professionalism of NGOs by providing support services and creating standards for the sector. These three areas are interrelated. In order to compete for government contracts, NGOs will need to meet a number of requirements, such as being registered, having qualified staff, and being able to meet reporting requirements.  Currently, the government is having difficulty finding enough qualified NGOs to bid on social service contracts.  Recent measures to ease registration requirements and provide capacity-building support for NGOs are therefore meant to enlarge the pool of qualified NGOs.
Since last December, these “innovations” have continued apace as governments, government agencies and even GONGOs at different levels strive to come up with their own initiatives.  While the desire to innovate might be thought to be synonymous with the desire to be different, most of these initiatives predictably fall into one of the three forms discussed above.  (Perhaps we should not expect anything more from a top-down mandate to innovate.)
In terms of registration reforms, a number of well-placed sources including the State Council, MoCA officials and academics have suggested that the revised national-level regulations for registration of social organizations, which have been eagerly anticipated for a number of years, should be ready by the end of the year.  We may then expect to hear an announcement after the Third Plenum about these revised regulations. There have also been high-level signals that regulations for international NGOs will be forthcoming, but we think this is less likely given the sensitivity of international NGOs working in China, though it would be a pleasant surprise if it did happen.
In addition to the national level, there are reportedly 19 provinces now carrying out trial regulations allowing NGOs to register directly with Civil Affairs. If Beijing and Guangdong are any indication, however, the implementation of these trial measures has not been smooth. In Beijing, many NGOs still are unable to register directly with Civil Affairs. In Guangdong, many registered NGOs still do not get preferential tax treatment. It should also be reiterated that these reforms are aimed at certain categories of NGOs, generally economic and trade associations, public benefit and charitable organizations, and social service organizations. As one commentator stated, political and legal NGOs should not bother applying. The closing down of the Transition Socio-Economic Research Institute (Chuanzhixing) in July would be a case in point.
Regarding government contracting, contracting appears to be quite decentralized and taking place through different agencies. In Beijing, the Social Affairs Committee is carrying out contracting, and Civil Affairs is providing funding for NGOs to hire certified social workers in an effort to professionalize the sector.  At the central and local levels, a portion of the Welfare Lottery (gongyi caipiao) is being used to contract social services. Even mass organizations such as the Beijing Federation of Trade Unions are getting into the contracting act.  In terms of implementation, it is unclear if there are sector-wide standards and procedures for contracting, and there is a lack of transparency with some claiming government contracting takes place in a “black box”.  There are allegations of “rent-seeking” in which “qualified” organizations receive government funding only to outsource it to other social organizations after first taking a cut. Finally, there is a widespread perception that the government tends to contract out to “insider” NGOs such as GONGOs, rather than to grassroots NGOs.
Finally, local governments and party organizations are setting up a number of different platforms and organizations, and proposing more detailed standards and norms for the sector.  These include “hub”-style organizations built on the old mass organizations, and incubation bases to offer support and guidance to NGOs and cultivate new ones.  One interesting example of a “hub” organization that seems new and innovative is the China Charity Alliance, which is being created under the auspices of the China Charity Donation and Information Center, a GONGO set up under the Ministry of Civil Affairs. The Alliance’s aim seems to be to promote the philanthropic sector by bringing in business tycoons and celebrities as members. (When this author asked one of the organizers of the Alliance about whether CDB could join, I was politely informed that the Alliance was only inviting large, influential organizations and individuals.)
So far, so good.  The news about the lowering of barriers to registration is welcome, and the NGO sector needs clearer regulation and more support from the government.  But then came the spring and summer months of 2013 when activists in central China and Beijing were arrested or detained for calling for government officials to disclose their assets. Following that were detentions and arrests of activists associated with the New Citizen Movement in July, the closing down of the Transition Research Institute, an independent think-tank, and broader restrictions on social media and the ideological atmosphere. This year’s crackdown is not an isolated event. If we think back to 2012, we can also recall the harassment of labor NGOs in Guangdong. Clearly the call for social innovation does not always extend to those seeking to innovate from the bottom up.
These recent crackdown on civil society advocates seem to run counter to the social management innovations that are expanding the space for NGOs. But maybe there is a way to reconcile these seemingly contradictory trends. Perhaps what we are seeing is an agreement within the Chinese leadership to depoliticize the NGO sector. Some may argue that this arrangement has already been in place for a while: after all, the government actively discourages NGOs engaged in political or rights-based legal work. But the difference this time is that depoliticization is also being encouraged using positive incentives. Thus the thrust of social management innovation may be to create top-down, institutionalized partnerships with NGOs that fall into “acceptable” categories such as social service provision, seeking to guide, support and thereby co-opt them.  At the same time, the government will not extend the same treatment to more “critical” NGOs and activists engaged in advocacy and more sensitive issues; on the contrary, it will make life more difficult for them.  
Recently, one civil society scholar warned against allowing China’s third sector to grow while its civil society diminishes. We should keep these words in mind as we monitor developments in civil society over the next year.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Announcing China Development Brief's New Chinese NGO Directory and Special Report

China Development Brief recently published a new Chinese NGO Directory that is available online at and in print.  The bilingual (Chinese-English) Directory (with 251 NGO profiles and a Special Report: Mapping China's Public Interest NGOs) is one of the most important reports and publications that we have produced at CDB in many years. It took us more than one year to research, compile, translate and edit and is the first-ever public directory focused solely on grassroots Chinese NGOs. We hope it will serve as a valuable reference for anyone interested in NGOs in China.

Click here to download a free PDF copy of the Special Report and here to order a print version of the Directory.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Who’s Responsible for Watching Our Water?

One of the latest controversies in Chinese society has been the issue of groundwater pollution in Shandong and other provinces. Disillusioned by the ineffectuality of the government agencies responsible for monitoring pollution, a number of civil society advocates have emphasized the role of NGOs and the public in efforts to eradicate pollution.

By Amanda Brown-Inz
Associate Director, China Development Brief (English)
The first public discussions about groundwater pollution began on the Weibo microblog in mid-February, when microblogging stars such as journalist Deng Fei circulated allegations that businesses in Weifang, Shandong were using high-pressure pumps to dispose of wastewater, leading to high levels of underground pollution that affect the quality of the region's drinking water. The Shandong Environmental Protection Bureau responded that it had examined the waste disposal methods of over 700 companies and failed to find any evidence of inappropriate methods, a claim widely pilloried by the public. This controversy quickly became part of a larger current of public critiques of Environmental Protection Bureaus throughout the country, including an offer of RMB 200,000 which a Zhejiang businessman extended to any Environmental Protection Bureau official willing to swim in a polluted local river.
In response, a number of local Environmental Protection Bureaus sought to defend their work. The Shandong Environmental Protection Bureau put out an open call to the public, offering a hefty reward for evidence of groundwater pollution. The Wenzhou Environmental Protection Bureau took out a full-page ad in a local newspaper, arousing further opprobrium for misuse of funds. China Daily released a number of articles lauding the services offered by the Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau, including an environmental protection hotline.  These efforts, however, were not enough to quell the growing tide of criticism directed at Environmental Protection institutions' failure to address the serious damage that industries are inflicting on the environment.
The fact remains that the Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) is one of the country's weakest ministries, with little ability and, if rumors concerning corporate bribes aimed at MEP officials are true, little incentive to strong-arm wealthy, well-connected businessmen into following regulations. In a lawsuit recently submitted by a man whose son suffered from a lung disorder caused by proximity to a trash burning plant, he accused the Ministry of Environmental Protection of delaying a response to his queries until after major companies in the area had been consulted, violating an internal regulation that inquiries must receive a response within 15 days.
Disappointed with the government institutions intended to fight pollution, and conscious that local officials also frequently ignore environmental protection regulations in order to meet the economic development quotas which can determine their promotion, many civil society voices have turned to the role of the public and civil society institutions in fighting pollution. As laid out in a recent meeting of environmental NGOs, these include calling for transparency in government, utilizing public interest lawsuits, and encouraging public participation. If pollution data is openly reported, environmental NGO Nature University founder Feng Yongfeng emphasized that it will be easier for the public to call for a response from the relevant authorities, and more difficult for businesses to obfuscate the nature of the situation.
Unfortunately, another MEP scandal at the end of February, regarding its refusal to release data from a national soil contamination investigation in 2006, highlights the significant shortcomings in transparency and accountability in the environmental protection system. And while the newly revised environmental public interest lawsuit may well be a useful tool in addressing pollution damage, others have argued that China's weak legal system, and the lack of clarity in the civil procedure legislation, leave the mechanism ill-suited to taking on the large entities responsible for pollution.   
While all levels of government, businesses, and the public will have to participate in constructing a coherent response to pollution, the MEP stands as the conduit through which environmental protection action should take place. Time will tell whether the institution, only recently upgraded to ministerial level, will develop the ability to effectively monitor pollution, openly release its data, and work with the public, NGOs, and other parties to keep pollution damage in check.

Monday, March 11, 2013

College Entrance Exam Woes for China's Migrant Children

Here is another View from the Media that was posted several weeks ago on China Development Brief's website that highlights the plight of China's migrant children.

Amanda Brown-Inz
CDB (English) Associate Director
In recent months, a considerable amount of media attention has focused on the plight of migrant workers' children seeking to attend public high school and take the college entrance exam (gaokao) in a location outside of their legal residency (hukou[1]). This issue highlights the tensions arising from China's rapid urbanization, and the stress that new geographic mobility places on the hukou system.
There are reportedly more than 400,000 migrant workers' children living in Beijing alone, approximately 16 million throughout the country, and these communities have become increasingly vocal about their right to attend public high school and test for university in their place of residence. In urban metropoles such as Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou, the issue has been particularly heated, as universities maintain higher placement quotas for these in-demand locations, and many claim that urban families hope to maintain a monopoly on their privilege by excluding the children of migrant workers from gaokao competition.
The first public debate on this issue centered around Zhan Haite, the 15-year-old daughter of a migrant businessman in Shanghai, whose plea for policy reform was featured in an op-ed in the state-owned newspaper China Daily.  More recently, the debate in Beijing focused on a controversial plan issued in December of 2012 that would allow migrant workers' children to attend vocational colleges in the capital beginning in 2013, and allow them to matriculate at universities after graduating from vocational colleges beginning in 2014. 
The plan would allow policy makers to kill two birds with one stone, skirting the gaokao issue and acquiring pupils for the city's unpopular (and reportedly subpar) vocational colleges. Following a public outcry, however, the Beijing Municipal Commission of Education announced on January 21 that it would reconsider this plan and develop a new action plan to allow migrant youths in Beijing to take the gaokao. This action plan will include creating a management regulation for migrant workers' schools and a special fund to guarantee that migrant children receive compulsory education in Beijing.
In the meantime, the Beijing Bureau of Education has turned its attention to the unregistered schools which provide education to migrant children. While migrant children at the junior high school level and below are technically entitled to attend Beijing public schools, exorbitant entrance fees and weak educational backgrounds often prevent their enrollment. Thus, private schools for migrant children have sprung up in recent years, attempting to address the unique needs and situation of the children of migrant workers.
Despite the benefits of  (and obvious need for) these types of schools, Beijing education authorities have frequently been quite hostile to their operations. Migrant children's schools face a constant battle against government closure efforts, and must often rely on their relationships or on appeals to the media to keep their doors open. Authorities argue, however, that many of these schools are not up to national standards, lacking professional teachers and proper curricula, and thus should not be allowed to operate. In January, Chaoyang authorities shut down 18 private schools.
More interesting initiatives related to the development and professionalization of migrant children's schools have emerged from the private sector. Over the last couple of years, for instance, the Narada Foundation (南都基金会) has funded a New Citizens Program (新公民), which develops and professionalizes already extant migrant children's schools. The Maple Women's Psychological Counseling Center  has also recently announced the development of its Beijing Migrant Children's Education Plan, which will unite a number of NGOs (including New Citizens) to form the Beijing Migrant Children's Care Alliance, carrying out Training-of-Trainers and other programs.
The cause of gaokao qualification for the children of migrant workers is one in a growing chorus of critiques of the hukou registration system. The challenge for the government, which is reticent to dismantle the system, lies in testing how many exceptions and tweaks may be made to its infrastructure in response to social welfare concerns before it snaps. While the halting of the hukou system is far from certain, its navigation will hold a crucial place in the struggle for social welfare reform in upcoming years.

[1] Hukou is the Chinese term for the household registration system which determines every Chinese citizen's legal residency. In this system every Chinese citizen registers in the city or town or township where they reside. Benefits such as medical insurance and access to public schools are tied to one's hukou and are not transferable. Thus, if someone moves to another city, such as Beijing, they generally do not receive those same benefits in their new place of residence, unless they are able to change their hukou. Getting your hukou transferred to a major city such as Beijing or Shanghai, however, is very difficult. As a result, the large majority of “migrants” in China's major cities lack the same status as hukou holders in those cities.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Getting Involved in the Nonprofit Community in Beijing - An Update

A while back I posted about different venues for getting involved in the nonprofit community for those living in Beijing. Some of these are no longer around, like Wokai Beijing Volunteer Chapters Drinks for a Better World event now that Wokai has closed shop. But others are going strong and there are some other emerging venues worthy of mention:

1) Beijing Community Dinner – BCD was started in 2007 and has been organizing dinners every two weeks at a Beijing restaurant specializing in Chinese regional cuisine.  Interested individuals can go for a meal and hear someone from a Chinese nonprofit talk about their work.  Diners pay for the meal and are encouraged to add a donation which goes to the nonprofit.  BCD has also organized several fieldtrips to visit selected nonprofits in Beijing. To get on their mailing list, go to their website to sign up.

BCD almost always gets very interesting speakers, many from Chinese NGOs, and is committed to making their events as inclusive as possible by keeping costs down, and is always looking for volunteers to help with their events.  To give you an idea of the events they put on, I post their most recent event here:

Migrant worker issues continues to remain on the agenda of the Chinese government, especially as we start the NPC and CPPCC sessions in Beijing this week.  We have 2 speakers from organizations providing services and legal aid to migrant workers.

- Mr Li (Tao):"Nong Min Gong Xie Zuo Zhe (Helper/Collaborator for Migrant Workers)"The Facilitator provides all kinds of services(i.e. legal aid, entertainment performances, training lectures, study groups etc.) for migrant workers to help them better integrate with cities where they work.  

- Mr Zhang (Zhi Qiang): Beijing Zhiqiang Legal Consultancy Service Center "Da Gong Zhi You(Friends of Migrant Workers) offers legal aids for migrant workers and he also cares about the development for schools built in cities for children of migrant workers.

Date: Sat, March 9

Please RSVP with us by Thurs, March 7 so we know how many people to expect.  Restaurant venue details will be sent separately.

As usual, we will have Crazy Bake bread for sale (RMB25 per loaf).  Enjoy bread freshly-made by patients at the Chaoyang Mental Health Clinic in Tongzhou.

Heads up for our next dinner (Sat, March 23)

In the current age of collective and industrialized breeding, animal welfare seems to take second place to production schedules and profit.  We invite a representative from Compassion in World Farming (CIWF, to speak to BCD about global trends and China's role in food production.
2) FYSE -  Andrea Krause has been working hard over the last few years to expand the trainings and talks offered by FYSE and regularly hosts valuable training sessions and talks (full disclosure: I gave one on NGOs in China last month). Following is a post about this month's talk, given by no less than Andrea herself.

[Beijing] Introduction to social enterprises in China
March 27, 2013

RSVP required to

FYSE invites you to learn about and discuss the current state of, as well as challenges and opportunities for social enterprise in China.

China’s development is at a critical stage. The country faces increasing social, economic and environmental challenges in diverse areas such as education, healthcare and water. Social entrepreneurs are providing solutions that tackle these challenges by combining a social mission with a sustainable business model.

On March 27, 2013  FYSE invites you to discuss the current state of social enterprises in China featuring the findings from FYSE's 2012 China Social Enterprise Report.

The Speakers
Andrea Lane, Founder and Executive Director, FYSE
Andrea founded FYSE in 2008, and grew it into a cutting-edge organization that currently provides support to social entrepreneurs in 10 countries in Asia. Andrea has extensive start-up and management experience in various Asian countries including Bangladesh, China, Indonesia, Hong Kong and Malaysia.

FYSE's mission is to support social entrepreneurs who have the potential to significantly address social and environmental challenges. The organization has a track record of managing regional and national projects in Asia through multi-stakeholder collaborations with a wide network of partners including companies, educational institutions and nongovernmental organizations.
3) Public Interest Happy Hour - For those interesting in learning more about the nonprofit space in a more casual setting, this event may be just the ticket. It's a new event being organized by Aurora Bewicke, who works for the international NGO, International Bridges for Justice. Here are the details:

Public Interest Happy Hour

The Year of the Snake has arrived and it is once again warm enough to venture outside. In celebration of the warming weather, I’m loosely organizing (in other words, sending out this email) a happy hour for Tuesday, March 12, 2013, from 7-9pm. The theme is public interest, with an aim of bringing together those working in NGOs, rule of law, embassies, etc., but feel free to pass the invite along to anyone who would like to come.

Location: Bar Veloce
Date: Tuesday, March 12, 2013
Time: 7-9

The last happy hour had about 20 people and I assume this one will also gather a good crowd. If you get a chance, send me an RSVP ( so that I can let the bar know approximately how many to expect, but feel free to decide last minute as well.

If you wish to be removed from future emails, just let me know.

For directions and information about the location:
  • Sanlitun 三里
  • Courtyard 4 (opposite west entrance of 1949 - The Hidden City), Gongti Beilu, Chaoyang District
  • 朝阳区工体北路4号院(1949西门对面
  • 6586 1006
Best wishes,

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Orphanages, Homeless Shelters and the NGO Space in China

I'm reposting a new China Development Brief feature, written by CDB(English)'s Associate Directory, Amanda Brown-Inz, which looks at major Chinese media stories having to do with the civil society space in China.
As a supplement to CDB's Weekly Civil Society News feature, we are launching View from the Media, a weekly column which will summarize and provide analysis of some of the major stories concerning civil society that appear in the Chinese media.

This week, we begin with two cases that sparked widespread controversy in the field: the Lankao Fire Incident and the "Two Freezing to Death" Incident. Both cases draw attention to concerns about government handling of social welfare programming, and to anxieties about the navigation of spaces outside of government administration.
The Lankao Fire Incident refers to a fire that occurred in Lankao County, Henan, on January 4. It was discovered that 7 orphans, who were living under the care of a woman named Yuan Lihai, perished in the fire. Further investigation revealed that Yuan Lihai ran an unofficial, unregistered orphanage that was nonetheless utilized by local authorities in the county, which lacked an official welfare facility for orphans or abandoned children. According to reports, although both the public and the authorities were aware of substandard living conditions in the orphanage and felt that it was "only a matter of time" before this sort of tragedy would befall Yuan Lihai, the orphanage operated for more than 20 years and received financial and material support from the county government.
The spark of media coverage following the fire brought national attention to this incident, and also brought to light a number of similar shortfalls around the country. According to one article, after news of the Lankao affairs prompted the Guangdong provincial government to investigate the quality of public facilities for orphans and abandoned children, an official in Guangdong, whose county had speciously claimed to operate a state-mandated orphanage, sought to "borrow" orphans from a local temple. Of the 2,853 counties in China, the Ministry of Civil Affairs found that only 64 possessed child welfare facilities. The childcare centers in Aid Stations (救助站), present in a number of counties including Lankao, were deemed unsatisfactory even by local officials (for reasons elucidated in the following section).
While it is unclear precisely what sort of response will unfold in the wake of the incident, the Lankao fire raised a number of issues that will affect both local governments and non-governmental service providers. The lack of proper state welfare facilities for orphans and abandoned children has drawn widespread criticism, leading the Ministry of Civil Affairs to pledge assistance in the creation of 500 counties by 2015. As for the private orphanages caring for more than 80 percent of the country's 615,000 reported orphans, it is inclear whether the incident will lead local Civil Affairs Bureaus to develop official relationships with these facilities through procurement of services as hoped by some, or whether government efforts will focus on eradicating the operation of illegal orphanages
The second case receiving widepread media attention this week was the case of two homeless men in Changsha, Hunan who froze to death after repeatedly refusing to go to Aid Stations for care. While the initial response from officials seems to have been that the state should not be held liable for the deaths of these men, who chose not to seek help, the case was further complicated by later reports of an undercover journalist who was beaten by Aid Station employees. The employees claimed that they suspected he was mentally ill and perhaps carrying a weapon, and explained that they were trying to restrain him. As a former MCA official stated, however, such a response would be inappropriate regardless of the suspect's mental state.
The official, Tang Jun, explained in an interview that many of the issues with Aid Stations stem from their previous incarnations as part of the Shelter and Repatriation System (收容遣返制度), which was developed to deal with errant migrant workers in a time when workers were just beginning to leave their homes en masse to seek employment in other provinces. Criticism of the Shelter and Repatriation System led to its disbanding in 2003, when the stations were converted into Aid Stations. Unfortunately, Tang explained, many of the staff have retained their violent habits, and the stations often continue to serve their original purpose of shipping migrants home rather than offering them shelter.
The responses to this case seem to be two-fold, and may cause both positive and negative repercussions. On one hand, the Ministry of Civil Affairs has made efforts to educate Aid Station personnel as to the proper protocol in dealing with these types of situations, so as to make the Aid Stations more hospitable to the homeless. On the other hand, the vows of preventing this sort occurrence may lead to further strong-arming of the homeless into Aid Station facilities, as homeless deaths are felt to reflect poorly on the state. Finally, on the transparency front, a Changsha lawyer has requested that the Aid Station release its financial information, demonstrating a desire among the public to "keep watch" on the stations' activities.
These cases highlight the complex navigation of social welfare provision in the 21st century, as the public becomes increasingly vocal about expectations that the government will provide adequate social services. In some cases, the government may accept direct responsibility for the operation of these services, but the discussion of "social management innovation" in the 16th – 18th Congress reports indicates that the government will begin to rely on the procurement of social services from social organizations. Regardless of which route the government chooses, the focus on social welfare will have significant repercussions for the numerous non-government organizations who currently fill these roles, and for the groups they serve. Non-government service provision organizations will likely receive more supervision from government agencies or face serious restrictions of the scope of their work, and disadvantaged groups will find that their welfare is of greater concern to local government officials. 
By Amanda Brown-Inz,
Associate Director, China Development Brief (English)

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A New Dawn For Civil Society After the 18th Party Congress?

I'm reposting a Policy Brief I posted on China Development Brief more than a month ago. In two more weeks, the National People's Congress will be held here in Beijing and Xi Jinping, the new General Secretary of the Communist Party will be anointed as the next President of the People's Republic of China.

POLICY BRIEF NO. 12 (December 2012): A New Dawn After the 18th Party Congress?

After the 18th Party Congress, Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang, who have been anointed to become the new president and premier respectively (they will assume these positions after the next National People’s Congress in March of 2013) made a number of public appearances that gave observers some optimism that the new leadership will be supportive of reforms strengthening China’s civil society, but we will have to wait and see if they follow up with actions, and not just words.

Xi made a trip to the more freewheeling southern province of Guangdong to promote the reforms being carried out there. He also spoke on the 30th anniversary of the 1982 revision to the Constitution, calling for officials to do more to protect citizen rights, including human rights, and promote public confidence in the law. "We must firmly establish, throughout society, the authority of the Constitution and the law and allow the overwhelming masses to fully believe in the law," he said. In a separate meeting with HIV/AIDS activists, Li Keqiang called for the government to provide more support, specifically in terms of registration and funding, to grassroots NGOs engaged in combating HIV/AIDS.

Two other developments caught the media’s eye this month that deserve our attention. One is the government’s effort to build a foundation for government contracting to NGOs, and the other is an effort at the local level to create a “hub” system to better support and manage NGOs. The first effort is important because it heralds a new era of state-NGO collaboration, albeit on the state’s terms, and offers cash-strapped NGOs a new source of funding. The second is significant because it represents an effort by the local party-state to bring NGOs under their big tent.

Government contracting to NGOs will receive a big boost with the historic decision by the central government to set up a RMB 200 million (USD 32 million) fund in 2013 to purchase social services from social organizations. In line with this announcement, the Ministry of Civil Affairs has issued a “2013 Project Implementation Plan for the Government Financial Support of Social Organizations' Participation in Social Services”, and the Ministry of Civil Affairs and the Ministry of Finance have jointly issued a set of guidelines about how this fund will be used.

In the other development, the Guangdong provincial government, following in the footsteps of an earlier experiment in Beijing, is putting in place a “hub” system that will use “people’s organizations” such as the Communist Youth League and Women’s Federation, which enjoy close ties to the party-state, as a vehicle for supporting and managing NGOs.