Beijing Review: China's Grassroots Environmental NGOs

November 29, 2004

CECC Summary

The Beijing Review of November 25, 2004,features an article on the role China's own indigenous environmental NGOs. The article points to the frustrations that environmental NGOs encounter, but also describes some successes. According to Lin Youbin of the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA), the most significant problem grassroots NGOs face is a shortage of funding. Registration is “another big hurdle,” Lin added.

Liang Cuojie, the founder of Friends of Nature (FON), say that environmental NGOs rely on a “cooperative” relationship with the government. "What recourse would the Friends of Nature have if pollution is suspected? We are not a regulatory agency. We cannot allocate our limited resources to employ specialists to conduct investigations."

At the same time, environmental NGOs also adopt more adversarial tactics. For example, a photographic exhibition staged by FON at Beijing’s Natural History Museum features images from seventeen environmental “conflict zones,” including an illegal gold mine operating in the Changtang Nature Reserve in the Tibet Autonomous Region, and a dam under construction on the Lancangjiang (Mekong River) in Yunnan Province. Farmers displaced by the dam, and reduced to scavenging for recyclable trash to make ends meet, are suing the government for fair compensation. FON plans to use some of the proceeds from souvenir sales at the Beijing exhibition to help the villagers pay for their lawsuit.