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July 17, 2019

Shanghai Newspaper Accuses American NGOs of Supporting Hong Kong Protests

Xinmin Evening News, a Shanghai metro paper put out by the Chinese Communist Party Shanghai Municipal Committee, published an article on July 13 asserting that American NGOs plotted recent demonstrations in Hong Kong against a controversial extradition bill. The article, entitled “Cultivating ‘Hong Kong Independence’ Elements and Masterminding Anti-China Incidents . . . [We] Strip Away the ‘Painted Skin’ of These American NGOs,” names the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and the Open Society Foundations (OSF) in particular as helping organize the demonstrations from behind the scenes. (“Painted skin” is a metaphorical Chinese expression describing an attractive appearance that masks an evil face and cruel nature.) Its publication comes weeks after large protests began rattling the territory. Hong Kong authorities have labeled the demonstrators as rioters.

The Xinmin article warns that “although U.S. NGOs are ostensibly not government organizations, in reality they cannot cut off ties with the U.S. government, businesses, or the religious community,” and that China can neither “lower its guard against American NGOs, nor treat them purely as dangerous sourges. Management in accordance with the law is the key to letting in American NGOs that have a genuine desire to help China and not those that just want to cause chaos.” Citing Chinese government reports, Xinmin states that over 1,000 American NGOs have operated in mainland China since 1978, providing a total of 20 billion yuan (U.S.$2.9 billion) in funding. Noting that 82 percent of this funding has flowed into higher education institutions, research institutions, and government agencies—rather than civil society organizations—the article implies that foreign NGOs could even be infiltrating the government system itself.

The Xinmin news story focuses primarily on the NED. It accuses the NED of playing a role in Hong Kong protesters’ occupation of the territory’s Legislative Council on July 1, which it refers to as a “chaotic and damaging incident” planned and conducted by the opposition coalition in Hong Kong, “Hong Kong Independence” elements, and Western anti-China forces. The article claims that NED has supported every major protest in Hong Kong since 2003, and works to “cultivate backbone ‘Hong Kong Independence’” supporters, such as Joshua Wong. “The NED has become the biggest black hand affecting Hong Kong’s stability, causing far more harm than the ‘Hong Kong independence’ elements [visible] at the front of the stage.” The article further asserted that the NED’s activities in Hong Kong are mainly carried out by the National Democratic Institute and the American Center for International Labor Solidarity. According to the article, these organizations are two long-term funding sources for the Hong Kong Democratic Party as well as for non-profits such as SynergyNet and Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor.

The article went on to describe how the NED purportedly infiltrates China, facilitating long-term ideological transformation, by funding activities in China carried out by Chinese companies, academic institutions, the media, and other NGOs. But because the activities are carried out through private channels and operated under the guise of the market, they are “highly concealed,” the article says. “[The NED] frequently supports ‘democratic movements,’ ‘Tibet independence,’ ‘Xinjiang independence,’ and other forces in and outside China, directly interfering in China’s internal affairs.” Specifically, the article states that the NED was behind the 2008 Tibetan unrest and the 2009 riots in Urumqi, Xinjiang, two of the largest incidents of violence and ethnic clashes in China in recent years.

Citing Russian media, the article suggests that the NED has close ties with the CIA, even likening it to a “second CIA in the U.S.” “On the surface,” the article reads, “the NED is one of the two million non-governmental organizations in the United States, but senior officials of the foundation have government backgrounds or are inextricably linked to the U.S. government.” The article argues that because the NED provides funds annually to NGOs in Asia, Central and Eastern Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, Africa, and the countries of the former Soviet Union, the organization “conducts subvert activities or promotes ‘color revolutions’ in countries with which the U.S. doesn’t see eye to eye."

The Xinmin article also discussed the Open Society Foundations, a New York-based non-profit organization founded and chaired by the Hungarian-American investor George Soros. The article claims that OSF routinely exports Western ideology and values through supposedly non-political activities and played a role in “color revolutions” that occurred in Eastern European countries in recent decades. OSF, according to Xinmin, has been actively funding activities in Hong Kong in recent years and, like the NED, is focused on infiltrating the region’s universities.

Neither the NED nor the OSF has a formal presence in mainland China, through either a representative office or filed for temporary activities. Notably, the Foreign NGO Law, which regulates foreign NGO activity in mainland China, does not apply to Hong Kong; NGOs incorporated in Hong Kong must themselves go through the mechanisms provided in the Foreign NGO Law to work as a “foreign NGO” in the mainland.

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