May 11, 2011; Source: Washington Post | Anyone looking for signs that China is moving toward becoming an open, even a more Western style, civil society, will be chagrined by a Washington Post article that describes the country’s crackdown on nonprofit groups. According to the newspaper, over the past several months nonprofits have been subjected to increased government harassment, such as tax investigations and burdensome restrictions on accepting money from foreign donors.

Among the examples of none-to-subtle efforts to make it harder for these organizations to operate include a February decree from the Education Ministry that prohibits universities from participating in an internship program to train young people in social work that the Hong Kong branch of the UK-based charity, Oxfam, operated on Chinese campuses. Last March, groups receiving money from foreigners were told they now have to present notarized copies of donation agreements or get prior government approval before accepting funds. According to observers the Post queried, these and other actions like them “clearly indicate that the government is trying to restrict groups it considers troublesome, while intimidating the rest.”

The new funding rules are perhaps the most troubling, causing worry among some groups that their sources of support will dry up. For example, one group that fights discrimination against hepatitis and AIDS carriers, gets 90 percent of its funding from foreign donors. The organization’s founder, Lu Jun, says he hasn’t received any donations since March and “can’t wait too long.”—Bruce Trachtenberg