News / Asia

    VOA Exclusive: US Democracy Group Rebuts Hong Kong Meddling Allegations

    Pro-democracy protesters stand in heavy rain while blocking a main road at Mongkok shopping district in Hong Kong, October 22, 2014.
    Pro-democracy protesters stand in heavy rain while blocking a main road at Mongkok shopping district in Hong Kong, October 22, 2014.

    A U.S. nongovernmental organization accused of instigating Hong Kong's pro-democracy "Occupy" street protests says it is engaged in normal cooperation with civic groups in the Chinese territory and has nothing to hide.

    Chinese state media and pro-Beijing news outlets in Hong Kong have published a series of articles in recent days, accusing the National Endowment for Democracy of funding and advising the protesters, who have occupied major Hong Kong streets since September 28. Those media also have portrayed NED as an agent of U.S. foreign policy.

    Hong Kong chief executive Leung Chun-ying added his voice to the foreign interference allegations this week. In a report published Wednesday, the South China Morning Post quotes Leung as saying he will disclose evidence of "foreign forces participating in the Occupy movement" at the "appropriate time."

    NED responds to criticism

    In an exclusive interview with VOA, National Endowment for Democracy's vice president of programs for Asia, the Middle East and North Africa, Louisa Greve, dismissed the accusations as an insult to Hong Kong people, whom she said have their own desires for a "democratic basis for their government."

    NED receives U.S. federal government funding as well as private donations in pursuit of its stated global mission of supporting other NGOs working to "strengthen democratic values, processes, and institutions." It also has an independent board of directors who allocate those funds.

    "NED has a budget which is paid for by American taxpayers, but its decision making is not part of American foreign policy," Greve said.

    The Washington-based organization says it provides more than 1,000 grants a year to partner groups around the world, giving them an average of $50,000. NED's three partners in Hong Kong include the U.S.-based Solidarity Center and the Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor, which receive grants of around $150,000, and the U.S. National Democratic Institute, which has a $400,000 grant for work in Hong Kong and mainland China.

    Greve said NED does not engage in democracy-promotion work in Hong Kong itself.

    "We really don't have offices around the world -- we have staff who take a look at proposals [from partner groups], have to understand the politics in the countries [where those partners operate], and then provide project support based on the groups' own proposals," she said. "Based on competition, because [our] money is limited, we try to support the best projects. We don’t control them."

    But NED does assess its partners' performance to decide whether it should renew their grants.

    In a program broadcast by Hong Kong's Asia Television on October 14, Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor director Law Yuk-kai said his organization must send a year-end report of its activities to NED. "We just say what we have done. We are not reporting to the U.S. government," Law said.

    Greve said the information-sharing work of NED-funded groups is an activity protected by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

    "In trade, commerce or scientific cooperation, it's normal for NGOs to have cooperation with foreign institutions. The same is true for civil society groups cooperating for common goals," she said.

    History of US support

    NED has been funding democracy-promotion programs in Hong Kong for about two decades with grants totaling several million dollars. Greve said the level of support has been consistent during that period.

    "[NED's Hong Kong project] is not very large compared to some places in the world. It is a city that can rely on its own resources," she said.

    NDI, one of NED's four core grantees, has been working in Hong Kong since 1997. It says its programs have facilitated research and dialogue related to governance, at the request of local organizations.

    Accusations of NED-affiliated groups meddling in Hong Kong affairs have been publicized for years.

    "NDI has had lots of negative press in Hong Kong [from Chinese state-run and pro-Beijing media]," Greve said. "It's not unusual for governments that are authoritarian and lack popular legitimacy through a vote to blame foreigners for citizens' discontent."

    Hong Kong pro-democracy advocates also have long been labeled by their opponents as foreign agents.

    Greve said those activists know the risks of working with NED partners. "But they still say, ‘international cooperation is legitimate.’ So nobody regrets their choice - I haven't heard of such a thing."

    Lee Cheuk-yan is one such activist. He leads the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU) and serves in the Legislative Council as a lawmaker for the Labor Party.

    FILE - Pro-democracy lawmaker Lee Cheuk-yan speaks after releasing balloons with caricatures of jailed Chinese Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo during a protest outside the Chinese liaison office in Hong Kong.FILE - Pro-democracy lawmaker Lee Cheuk-yan speaks after releasing balloons with caricatures of jailed Chinese Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo during a protest outside the Chinese liaison office in Hong Kong.
    x
    FILE - Pro-democracy lawmaker Lee Cheuk-yan speaks after releasing balloons with caricatures of jailed Chinese Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo during a protest outside the Chinese liaison office in Hong Kong.
    FILE - Pro-democracy lawmaker Lee Cheuk-yan speaks after releasing balloons with caricatures of jailed Chinese Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo during a protest outside the Chinese liaison office in Hong Kong.

    Labor unionist draws attention

    HKCTU released a statement last week, saying it has received $540,000 in financial support from Solidarity Center, another NED core grantee, over the past seven years.

    The Washington-based group is affiliated with the U.S. labor federation AFL-CIO and says it strives to "assist workers around the world who are struggling to achieve safe and healthy workplaces, family-supporting wages, social protections and a voice on the job."

    HKCTU leader Lee has been a prominent supporter of the Occupy movement. Pro-Beijing Hong Kong media have depicted him as a protest leader and a U.S. puppet for accepting American money.

    Greve said Solidarity Center has given the bulk of its funds to HKCTU to help it with labor organizing work, something she described as a pillar of civil society.

    "NED's support to Solidarity Center, and Solidarity Center support to HKCTU is completely separate from Lee Cheuk-yan's political work [as a lawmaker], which is a separate role that he plays, and the money doesn't mix between the two," she said.

    In its statement, HKCTU denied using Solidarity Center funds for political purposes and threatened to pursue legal action against media groups whom it accused of slandering Lee.

    NED partners defiant

    In a statement emailed to VOA, NDI also denied providing any support to political groups associated with Hong Kong's Occupy protest movement.

    "These reports are not only false, they distract from the issue at hand, which is: Hong Kong residents expressing their desire for universal suffrage in an election that provides a meaningful choice of candidates," NDI said.

    The organization also said it takes a nonpartisan approach to its Hong Kong programs, which include recent public forums on political reforms. "Representatives of Hong Kong’s major political parties, including those described as pro-Beijing, have participated in these forums," NDI said.

    Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor director Law said his NED-funded volunteers are focused on local issues as they pursue the group's mission of promoting better human rights protections for city residents.

    "If we contribute to the democratization of Hong Kong, and this also is in the interests of the U.S. government, then I would congratulate the Hong Kong public for having support... from other parts of the world," Law told Asia Television.

    Greve said NED-sponsored projects in Hong Kong are meant to foster a public debate that includes "all voices" in local politics. She declined to offer specifics when asked to provide examples of accomplishments by NED partners.

    "We're happy to see that the groups we've supported continue to actively pursue the protection of civil liberties, and frankly, citizen participation in what Hong Kong's political governance framework should be," she said.

    Listen to Michael Lipin's interview with the NED's Louisa Greve

    Part 1:

    Part 2:

    Part 3:


    Michael Lipin

    Michael covers international news for VOA on the web, radio and TV, specializing in the Middle East and East Asia Pacific. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_Lipin

    You May Like

    Top US General: Turkish Media Report ‘Absurd'

    General Dunford rejects ‘irresponsible' claims of coup involvement by former four-star Army General Campbell, who led NATO forces in Afghanistan before retiring earlier this year

    Video Saving Ethiopian Children Thought to Be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at efforts of one African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children

    Protests Over Western Troops Threaten Libyan 'Unity' Government

    Fears mount that Islamist foes of ‘unity' government plan to declare a revolutionaries' council in Tripoli

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Carmel from: Canada
    October 30, 2014 9:48 AM
    God knows.

    by: Carmel from: Canada
    October 27, 2014 10:18 PM
    If a people and their next generation have a love in their hearts that are stronger than death, you simply cannot crush it or manipulate it.

    What HK people have is not just ideals. Ideals may change.

    These protesters have died to themselves many times before they make their stand for humanity sake, so to speak. May God bless them.
    In Response

    by: Gstar from: Hong Kong
    October 30, 2014 1:48 AM
    You gotta be so blinded by the media. The majority of people in Hong Kong do not support this movement and only people like you from overseas who watch and read US media believe that we are oppressed in Hong Kong. So naive. The NED is known for funding coups around the world.

    by: Frankie Fook-lun Leung from: Los Angeles
    October 25, 2014 3:46 PM
    where does China send her brightest for higher education? where do their corrupt officials run with their money? Where did Xi Jin PIng and Deng Xiao Ping send their children to learn from? If USA is trying to destablise China, China maskes it happen faster.

    by: meanbill from: USA
    October 23, 2014 8:03 AM
    [I do believe], that the (CIA) interferes in the politics of all non-European Union and Sunni Muslim governed countries in the world..... [this US President wouldn't dare interfere in EU politics, or try to tell a Sunni Muslim ruler/leader what to do?].... [why?].... [I believe he's still a Sunni Muslim, and did not commit apostasy?].

    by: Anonymous from: Finland
    October 23, 2014 6:03 AM
    China like Russia - everything what is bad on their territory is caused by USA and EU.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunitiesi
    X
    VOA News
    July 25, 2016 5:09 PM
    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Four Brother Goats Arrive in Brooklyn on a Mission

    While it's unusual to see farm animals in cities, it's become familiar for residents of Brooklyn, New York, to see a little herd of goats. Unlike gas-powered mowing equipment, goats remove invasive weeds quietly and without adding more pollution to the air. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this is a pilot program and if it proves to be successful, the goat gardener program will be extended to other areas of New York. Faith Lapidus narrates.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora