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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Another notch on the 'bedpost' against human rights in China

China's Ministry of Education has "ordered colleagues to cut ties with Oxfam and prevent it form recruiting on campuses, accusing Oxfam's Hong Kong branch of a hidden political agenda - seeking to infiltrate the mainland". 

According to The Guardian, the notice appears to refer to an internship programme started in 2006 that has placed 40 students working at the NGOs into sectors such as supporting migrant workers. Charlotte Kong, communications manager of Oxfam Hong Kong, said the project was part of its broader attempts to contribute to the development of civil society. Kong said in a statement, "We believe it is in line with the central government's policies encouraging more students to enter the field of social work. In the past four years we never received any warning that this programme was sensitive."  

Although some officials have reportedly sought to encourage the development of NGOs and welcomed their potential to complement the work of the state, Beijing remains wary of the country's emerging civil society and its potential to challenge the government. Domestic groups often register themselves as companies because of the difficulties in establishing themselves legally. Foreign organizations also operate under tight restrictions. 

As civil society continues to develop independently of the state, Beijing remains distrustful, suspicious and largely apprehensive. While this action on the part of the Chinese government may seem like an overreaction, its logic is comprehensible. Beijing fears any potential challenge to the government. Another notich on the 'bedpost' against human rights in China.


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