Sunday, June 25, 2006

China Cracking Down on NGOs

China's Communist Party rulers are determined to significantly reduce the growing influence of nongovernment organizations (NGOs) operating in China, especially groups that are funded by the United States.

As the San Francisco Chronicle reported today, Beijing has begun to crack down on the NGOs, including George Soros' New York-based Open Society Institute and the Washington-based United States Institute of Peace (USIP) and National Endowment of Democracy (NED).

China Confidential has learned that the USIP and NED are special targets, as shown by the regime's recent raid of the local NED offices. Both groups promote themselves abroad as private, nonprofit organizations. In fact, they are mainly funded by the US national (federal) government. China's hypersensitive, authoritarian rulers will probably play up the groups' government connections--calling into question the N in their NGO status--while trying to avoid inflammatory, anti-US rhetoric.

But USIP and NED naturally lend themselves to criticism--even in the US.

Set up by the US Congress during the Reagan years with the help of Oliver North and other conservative operatives and ideologues--essentially, to do the kind of pro-democracy, political agitation conducted by the CIA during the Cold War--USIP and NED are controversial outposts of the neo-conservative movement, long criticized by Congressional Republicans and Democrats alike as costly, counterproductive boondoggles.

NED president Carl Gershman, a veteran China critic who is regarded by many Washington insiders as a brilliant political polemicist and theoretician and an extremely effective activist and organizer, is a onetime social democrat-turned-conservative-Democrat-turned-neocon Bush backer. He is particularly unpopular with moderate and old-line Republicans, as well as liberal Democrats eager to end federal funding for NED and the less effective USIP, which has at times strayed from the narrow, neocon path.

So, whereas an outpouring of overseas support can be expected for NGOs focused on AIDS and the environment, among other issues, few allies are likely to rally around NED and USIP in the face of a continuing crackdown.

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