Magazine Covering Civil-Society Groups Is Shut Down in China

Article excerpt

China's most respected publication on development issues, widely read by international aid donors and local nongovernmental organizations, has been ordered by police to close, the magazine's British founder and editor said Wednesday.

The closure of the Chinese-language edition of China Development Brief was seen as a major blow to efforts to build civil-society groups in China, which relied on it as an independent clearinghouse for information about their work.

The move appeared to represent at least a temporary victory for forces within the Chinese government that remain wary of allowing unofficial organizations, such as charities, to operate outside - and possibly threaten - Communist Party control.

"On the one hand, the government recognizes that civil society can play a positive role in a number of areas," helping the authorities to resolve glaring social and environmental problems, explains Yiyi Lu, an expert on Chinese politics at the Royal Institute for International Affairs, a think tank in London. "On the other it is obviously worried that so-called hostile forces might use NGOs to undermine the government."

Nick Young, who founded China Development Brief (www.chinadevelopmentbrief.com) as a nonprofit magazine 12 years ago, said he was given no reason for the closure during a visit to his office by Beijing city police and other local officials last week. He said he personally had been accused of conducting "unauthorized surveys" and forbidden to write anything on the magazine's English-language website.

A Beijing police spokesman said he had no information about the affair.

"Closing down 'China Development Brief' would be a huge loss, not only for domestic NGOs but also for the Chinese government in the long run," said Ge Yun, director of an environmental activist group.

The publication "has served as a bridge between Chinese NGOs and the government," she said. …