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The Yirenping Experience: Looking Back and Pushing Forward

The Beijing Yirenping Centre was one of the most remarkable grassroots nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) to emerge in China during the Hu and Wen era. Through an innovative mix of strategies, including legal litigation, public advocacy, and performative arts, the centre was able to promote significant policy changes in its field of operation—that is, anti-discrimination—before being […]

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From Green Shoots to Crushed Petals: Labour NGOs in China

When China hosted the 1995 United Nations Fourth World Summit on Women, who would have thought it would be a catalytic event in the growth of nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) in China? This meeting of UN representatives from all over the world and activists attending the shadow NGO conference held in Huairou County, Beijing, unleashed a […]

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China’s Human Rights Lawyers: Rifts and Schisms in an Era of Global Human Rights Backlash

While the ongoing human rights violations in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region and the dramatic constitutional collapse of Hong Kong rightly demand most of the attention that the news media, international civil society, and democratic governments can pay to China today, systematic violations of human rights continue throughout the country, and Chinese rights defenders are […]

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Unfinished Revolution: An Overview of Three Decades of LGBT Activism in China

In the past three decades, China’s civil society has gone through a series of ups and downs in the context of shifting national policies and geopolitics. The Fourth World Conference on Women that was held in Beijing in 1995 was a watershed moment for transnational feminism and LGBT activism.[1] It not only introduced the nongovernmental […]

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Humility in the Pursuit of Tacit Knowledge: Public-Benefit Work in Poverty Alleviation and Rural Development

Zhou Jian kindly agreed to write for us about his experience of almost 15 years of working in poverty alleviation, rural development, and community development in different regions of China. Zhou began this work full-time following the Wenchuan earthquake in 2008. In 2012, he co-founded 
the Beijing Gan’en Philanthropic Foundation 
(北京感恩公益基金会) with prominent figures such […]

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Pioneers and Possibilities: Reflecting on Chinese NGO Development through Oral History

As the context in which Chinese nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) operate evolves, and the challenges they face change, revisiting the early days of post–Mao era NGO development (often dated to the early 1990s) can help us reflect on this change in comparative perspective. During my doctoral studies, I had the great luck to be based as […]

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Will There Be a Civil Society in the Xi Jinping Era? Advocacy and Non-Profit Organising in the New Regime

Assessments of the current state of civil society in China elicit a range of perceptions. Some raise alarms about the most ‘stringent crackdown since 1989’ (Howell 2019) and ‘a dark time for Chinese civil society’ (Dai and Spires 2018). Others, though clearly recognising police actions and tighter restrictions, emphasise that the activities of civil society […]

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Explorations in Environmental Protection: A Conversation with Guo Yunzhe

I met Guo Yunzhe in the mid-2000s when we belonged to the same university students’ environmental protection association, Green Hope (绿色希望). I led the association before him; he took over later. Yunzhe currently works for a nongovernmental organisation (NGO) in Yunnan Province focusing on community development and environmental protection. He is also a board member […]

From State Humanitarianism to Equal Citizens: The Making of Disability Subjects in China

On 23 January 2020, the city of Wuhan, the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak in China, went into lockdown. That day changed the lives of tens of thousands of citizens in China—and the world thereafter—including those of a family with two children with disability. On that day, Yan Xiaowen, the father of two boys with […]

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