Media regulation

NGO website shut down in Beijing

China Development Brief is an online information service about development issues and NGOs in China. It was founded by Nick Young 12 years ago in Yunnan as a print newsletter. He moved to Beijing in 1999 and started a Chinese language version. In 2004, both versions went online.

Subscribers to the newsletters include NGOs, multinational corporations, United Nations and government entities, and journalists. Despite a level of official scrutiny, Young's organization has operating without interference, and he was in the final stages of arranging a handover to his local colleagues and staff, before a planned move back to the UK at the end of the summer.

But on July 4, the nasties came walking though the door. In a written statement, Young explained what happened:

On July 4 our Beijing office was visited by a joint delegation of a dozen officials from the Beijing Municipality Public Security Bureau, the Beijing Municipality Statistical Bureau, and the Beijing Municipality Cultural Marketing General Legal Implementation Team.

After investigations and interviews lasting around three hours, they ordered the Chinese edition of China Development Brief to cease publication forthwith. The authorities appear to be deciding what punishment to apply.

I, as editor of the English language edition of China Development Brief, am deemed guilty of conducting "unauthorized surveys" in contravention of the 1983 Statistics Law, and have been ordered to desist. I have since been interviewed by the police section responsible for supervising foreigners in China.

Why did the nasties move on China Development Brief now? The shut down was probably caused by a number of factors, that may include a recent China Development Brief party attended by more than 300 people mostly in the NGO community, and Young's plans to hand over the entire operation to Chinese citizens after his departure.

In the wake of recent demonstrations in Xiamen against a chemical factory, the nationwide outpouring of anger about the Shanxi brick kiln slaves, and growing citizen concern about pollution, it seems that organizations that enable grass roots networking around social issues will be monitored closely, harassed and shut down.

In a phone interview this morning, Young commented that he had initially wanted to stay hush hush and try to sort the problem out. But someone yesterday posted information about the police raid to an email listserv that is read by many foreign correspondents in China. Within 24 hours, the following articles had appeared on the Internet:

Time blog: Beijing stops the presses
Wall Street Journal: Nick Young's statement, China Closes Newsletter
Middle East Times: China shuts down Web site popular with Western NGOs
Tim Johnson: More pressure on the media
Guardian: China bans influential NGO newsletter
New York Times: China shuts down Western run newsletter

UPDATE: The Wall Street Journal has published a translation of a a statement faxed to their offices from the Beijing Statistics Department that confirms the charges against Young, and ends 'the officials immediately requested Nick Young to cease his illegal research activities.'

There are currently 7 Comments for NGO website shut down in Beijing.

Comments on NGO website shut down in Beijing

"they ordered the Chinese edition of China Development Brief to cease publication"

the ngo's website (english and chinese version) is still alive.

isn't this post's title inappropriate?

We all read it. No one has a comment. Wild animals in Beijing? That's safe, blog on! Keep picking up your state-controlled copies of That's, which adds pro-government 'quotes' into their stories, and enjoying your "Nide zhongwen hen bang!" bromides. That's what they've reduced us to. Thank god those fools in the US and UK rejected us so we can feel the real China. Can't wait to read our insightful books. What a joke.

This is depressing.

CDB is one of the best website resources in China and the world. China should be proud of it. It's a place where Chinese and foreigners meet and discuss solutions to problems. You'll never find so many interested and helpful people -- Chinese or foreign -- as you will via the various communities of do-gooders who use CDB's resources.

My goodness, it seems really difficult for any foreign media to do anything good in China. Once a foreign publication gets successful, the inevitable result is shut-down or take-over. This pattern repeats again and again and again. I wonder if this particular case might be addressed in any of the WTO agreements?

My opinion is that someone made a pretty dumb calculation, and that this kind of case once again sends the message: It is almost impossible to do business in China without fearing that one's business will get raided by.

The precedent set here with this 25-year-old statistics gathering law, if appplied equally would shut down most of the foreign publications in China.

Don't Time-Out, That's Beijing, City Weekend do unauthorized surveys? (Favorite bar? Best Peking Duck?) [Oops: I forgot: Thats Beijing is no longer foreign-owned; that formerly British-owned mag already had its "locks changed."]

You know, there's a very valid question implied here, concerning statistics-gathering: Should the thousands of foreign journalist who cover the Beijing Olympics be issued a handbook about proper and legal statistics-gathering methods? Indeed, there is no event in the world so heavily dependent on statistics as the Olympic games, and I personally think that any reporter daring to narrate an Olympic sporting event's numerical results should first read through that nifty 1983 law and make sure she isn't committing a crime worthy of deportation when she writes that so and so came in first place.

When "laws" like this are used to squash good people doing good things, the real loser is the law itself.

Time Out publishes illegally AND does unauthorized surveys as well; China Development Brief is a million times more useful, but I think the devastating reality is that they are going to have to be made an example of. I wonder if the government taking control of their content is even a viable option.

Lao she - thanks for your insights. I thought I was losing it for a moment. Your observations have brought me back from the brink. How could I not be interested in something I have no interest in? What a fool I was to be interested in something else. You are right: what a joke. (Just waiting for the punchline though).

In spite of sucking up to the CCP, they still zapped him.

There's a lesson here. Don't be so f*c*ing naive. The CCP will not change.

This is their ballgame, and we're playing with their ball on their field. They reserve the right to stop the game at any point and say "gimme back my ball," and suddenly you're walking off the field with your glove under your arm, muttering obscenities and shaking your ahead, telling yourself, "damn, they did it to me again." No matter, take a breather and come back to play tomorrow. Bring the glove. The field and ball will still be there and available. It's all part of their game.

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