The Catholic University of America



Professor Karla Simon Presents at Singapore Conference on Activism in China


Catholic University law school Professor Karla Simon was among the featured speakers at “Conference on Modes of Activism and Engagement in the Chinese Public Sphere,”  organized by the Asia Research Institute and held at National University of Singapore on April 26 and 27.
Simon’s paper, titled “CSOs Pursuing a Reform Agenda in China,” examined ways in which civil society organizations engage with the Chinese party-state to accomplish rights-based reform agendas.
Excerpts from the paper’s abstract included:
“Although there are almost 450,000 registered CSOs in China, many CSOs are technically “illegal” because they are registered with the Business and Industrial Bureau instead of the Ministry of Civil Affairs. The government tends to ignore such organizations if they engage in activities that meet government approval.

This paper compares and contrasts two such business-registered organizations engaged in rights advocacy. One, the Aizhixing Institute (Aizhixing), has been heavily persecuted. The other, the Beijing Yirenping Center (Yirenping), has been more effective in pursuing its agenda.
Each of the organizations has been harassed from time to time, but one of them appears to be having considerable success in advancing its agenda, while the other is more limited in what it has been able to do in recent years. Does the difference in their treatment have to do with their agendas (disability rights for Yirenping and HIV/AIDs for Aizhixing)? Does it have something to do with the way in which they pursue their agendas? Or is it related to the attitudes of their founders toward the party-state? The paper explores the reason(s) why the two organizations have been treated differently.
Finally the paper addresses coming changes in the legal framework for CSOs that may bode well for activist organizations, permitting them to obtain registered status with fewer complications…”.
An internationally-recognized expert on civil society in China, Simon is an affiliated scholar with New York University’s US-Asia Law Institute. She has also served as a visiting professor at the Peking University School of Law.
Simon blogs on civil society in China for Alliance Magazine and is currently at work on a forthcoming book, “Reinvigorating Civil Society in China: A Socio-Legal Analysis” (Oxford University Press, 2012).