Western NGOs in Southeast Asia Support Anti-China Campaigns

October 1, 2020 (Global Times) – Southeast Asian countries have long been the focus for Western NGOs and
many work hard to support women’s rights and aid the underprivileged.
But critics increasingly argue that some non-governmental organizations
have become vehicles for Western propaganda and even engage in
“China-bashing campaigns” that are far outside their purview of doing
public good.

Many Western NGOs have been rooted in the local
societies in Southeast Asia countries for many years. They are normally
most visible during local social or environmental crises, but have also
been seen participating in local protests against China, debasing their
self-proclaimed “politically-neutral” tag. 

“NGOs staff cover a
very wide range of causes, but they also play a role in discrediting
China-aided or invested infrastructure projects by releasing reports
that are not always written by accredit scholars or researchers,” a
Chinese surnamed Zhao living in Naypyitaw, capital of Myanmar, told the
Global Times.

“Some of them even openly and bluntly support
activities that aim to split China’s sovereignty,” said Zhao, saying
that his neighbor had received a questionnaire from a local UK-funded
NGO seeking peoples’ ‘complaints’ about a nearby Chinese-aided
renovation project.

There are other examples of US organizations
stirring up troubles for projects between China and Southeast Asian
countries. The infamous National Endowment for Democracy (NED), a
foundation founded in 1983 under the Reagan administration to “support
democracy in other countries,” has been found to have frequently funded
and egged on some NGOs in Myanmar that oppose China-invested development
projects.

China announced sanctions on a batch of US NGOs
including NED in December 2019, as some NGOs have even pushed for regime
change, created global turmoil and cooperating with the US government
and other anti-China forces to contain China.

Global observers
have repeatedly exposed Shwe Gas Movement, a NED-sponsored NGO in
Myanmar which has been active in attacking Chinese-Myanmar cooperative
developments including a crude oil and gas pipeline project.

Geopolitical
researcher Tony Cartalucci criticized the group for claiming pipeline
equipment had “disturbed local religious area.” The equipment had done
anything “more or less extraordinary than one would find surrounding any
large scale infrastructure project,” Cartalucci wrote in his 2015
article Warning: Find Out Who Is Behind Civil Society Groups.

“In
many cases, [Western] funding and organizing opposition groups to take
to the streets and physically stop ongoing [development] projects,”
Cartalucci wrote. “…so that they may be reserved instead for the
West’s corporate giants to plunder them.”

NED’s website shows it
has granted some $1.25 million to several Myanmar’s local NGOs in at
least 20 projects against foreign “resource extraction.” Ironically, NED
claims to support “human rights” and “democracy” in Myanmar but it
still calls the country “Burma” on its website – an outdated name given
by British colonists before its independence in 1948. In 1989 the
country changed its name to Myanmar.  

Western NGOs in Southeast
Asia, sometimes derived from the same funding institutions, share
sources and normally back each other to consolidate their voice against
China,  Xia Qian (pseudonym), a Chinese who conducts fieldtrip research
in Nepal and is close to some of Western-supported NGOs, told the Global
Times.

 “When it comes to particularly sensitive issues, those
Western NGOs often work with locally registered NGOs, providing
financial support behind the scenes and recruiting local media and
individual web bloggers to shout for them,” Xia said. “Local NGOs
working with them will also be screened based on their political stance
and their relationship and interaction history with China.”

Under
the guise of protecting “human rights” and “democracy,” some US NGOs,
supported by US politicians and US intelligence agencies, ignore China’s
development record and fabricate stories about China ethnicity issues
especially around the Nepalese border villages adjacent to China,
according to Xia. “Some even collect information on the border using
drones.”

Among Southeast Asian countries, Myanmar, where the
political situation has been in turmoil for years, has become a
“paradise” for various Western NGOs, observers said.

Many NGOs,
especially those from Western countries, entered Southeast Asia region
in the 1990s, Zhu Zhenming, a professor at the Yunnan Academy of Social
Sciences, told the Global Times.

The NGOs in Myanmar sprung up
after the country carried out democratic reforms in 2010. NGOs from the
US, Canada, Japan and many European countries brought money and resource
to fill in social development gaps and promote green issues, Zhu
explained.

The Philippines, a former colony of the US, also has been a preferred destination of some Western NGOs.

They
usually use various tools to criticize China including stirring public
anger among local residents to reject China-initiated projects due to
“environmental concerns.” 

Opposition from some northern Thailand
residents against Chinese hydropower stations at the Lancang River
located in Southwest China’s Yunnan Province is another typical case.

Local
villagers hadn’t received a clear scientific understanding of the
landscape and the value of dams upstream, and thereby blindly believed
some NGO’s groundless allegations and protested along the river. Some
even received subsidies for participating in protests, according to Zhu.

While
many NGOs create value for local society and bring tangible assistance
to local people, experts warn that politically-charged organizations
controlled by outside powers are aimed at smearing and containing
China.