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US Group Rejects Claims It Incited Hong Kong Protests

A protester speaks on a barricade as the anti-occupy Central demonstration protesters try to remove the barricade in the Mong Kok district of Hong Kong, Friday, Oct. 24, 2014. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

A protester speaks on a barricade as the anti-occupy Central demonstration protesters try to remove the barricade in the Mong Kok district of Hong Kong, Friday, Oct. 24, 2014. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

Chinese media have accused a non-governmental organization in the United States of inciting the “Occupy” street protests in Hong Kong. But the group -- the National Endowment for Democracy -- is rejecting the accusations. The National Endowment for Democracy says it takes part in normal cooperation with civic groups in Hong Kong. But it says it has nothing to hide.

Chinese state media and pro-China news media in Hong Kong have published a series of reports critical of the National Endowment for Democracy. Those media have described the group, known as NED, as an agent of United States foreign policy.

The reports accuse NED of providing financial support and advising the protest movement. The protests have occupied major Hong Kong streets since September 28th.

The city’s chief executive, Leung Chun-ying, joined the accusations of foreign interference this week. A newspaper story published Wednesday says Mr. Leung said he will present evidence of “foreign forces participating in the Occupy movement” at the right time. The story appeared in The South China Morning Post.

Louisa Greve is NED’s vice president of programs for Asia, the Middle East and North Africa. She says the people of Hong Kong have their own wishes for “a democratic basis for their government.” Ms. Greve spoke to VOA reporter Michael Lipin.

Her group receives U.S. federal government money and private donations to carry out its work. NED’s stated purpose is to support other non-governmental agencies “working to strengthen democratic values, processes and institutions”.

Louisa Greve says U.S. taxpayers are providing money for the budget of NED. But she said her group’s decision-making is not part of U.S. foreign policy.

The organization says it provides more than 1,000 grants – financial aid - to partner groups around the world. It gives each one an average of $50,000. NED’s partners in Hong Kong include the U.S.-based Solidarity Center and the Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor. They each receive about $150,000. The U.S. National Democratic Institute is another partner. It has a grant of $400,000.

Ms. Greve said NED does not take part in democracy activism work in Hong Kong itself.

“We really don’t have offices around the world. We have staff who are asked to take a look at proposals. They have to understand the politics in the countries, and then provide project support based on the group’s own proposals. So the groups are bringing us their ideas, and based on competition because the money is limited, we try to give support to the best of those projects. So NED is providing support for projects proposed by the groups themselves, and we don’t control it. We don’t, we’re not a part of it.”

But NED does study the performance of its partners, to decide whether it should renew their grants.

Earlier this month, Hong Kong’s Asia Television broadcast comments by the head of the Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor. Law Yuk-kai said his group must send a year-end report of its activities to NED. Mr. Law said this report only documents what the group has done. He said the organization does not report to the U.S. government.

Louisa Greve said an agreement called the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights protects the information-sharing activities of NED. In her words, “In trade, commerce or scientific cooperation, it’s normal for non-governmental organizations to have cooperation with foreign institutions. The same is true for civil society groups cooperating for common goals.”

The National Endowment for Democracy has been financing pro-democracy programs in Hong Kong for about 20 years -- with grants totaling several million dollars.

Ms. Greve said the level of support has been consistent during that period. She said the group’s Hong Kong project is not very large compared to other areas. She said, “It is a city that can rely on its own resources.”

I’m Katherine Williams.

*This report was based on a story from VOA reporter Michael Lipin. Jeri Watson adapted it for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.


Words in This Story

civic - adj., of or relating to a citizen, a city, citizenship or community affairs

institutions - n., established organizations

grants - n., money that is given to someone by a government, a company etc. to be used for a particular purpose

renew - v., to make something new, fresh, or strong again

consistentadj., continuing to act or develop in the same way

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