Cui Yongyuan, a well-known China Central Television presenter, recently berated [zh] education officials in the Hunan Province, after they expressed their indifference to helping a rural teacher training project. On Sina Weibo, a Chinese microblogging website, Cui wrote that official correspondence from the Hunan education authority stated [zh] that “[we] do not oppose, support or [plan to] participate in the Rural Teacher Project.”
The program, which aims to select hundreds of rural teachers from Hunan for training, is funded by a private charity run by Cui. In response to these ‘three no’s’, Cui followed with his own furious response, “No effort, no principle, no face!” The entire account was republished on NDdaily [zh].
China has long been perceived as having a ‘big government’ and ‘small society’ but many citizens desire change. Most non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and charities in China are in their infancy and often have to seek government support to get work done.
But according to the 2011 China Charity Donation Report published on people.com.cn [zh], in 2010 more than 58.3% of private donations were channelled back to government or government-controlled charities, and only 1.3% trickled down to grassroots social welfare NGOs.
Cui's response quickly turned into a national debate over the relationship between the government and NGOs in China. Some criticized the Hunan authority for not supporting civic efforts while others disagreed with Cui Yongyuan's views.
The University of Hong Kong's China Media Project translated Chinese media researcher Yan Lieshan's opinion on this issue. Yan, who also has experience organizing rural education programs in China, believes that because the education sector is state-controlled, it is impossible to carry out any education-related project without government support [zh]:
A question of independence?
In the Chinese daily newspaper Southern metropolis [zh], influential investigative reporter Guo Yukuan (郭宇宽) expressed a different opinion:
Current affairs commentator Wei Yingjie (魏英杰), echoed Guo's views [zh], emphasizing that NGOs should be an independent sector: