By Wang Peng
2008-04-22 From Nation, page 12, issue no. 363, Apr. 14, 2008
Abridged translation by Zuo Maohong
Original article:[Chinese]

A weary-eyed and long-haired Zhao Zhong chose his words carefully. As the 26-year-old cofounder of Green Camel Bell (GCB), the first green NGO in Gansu province, he had no choice but to be cautious.

Two years ago, a staffer was forced to quit after he was misquoted by local media, which resulted in pressure by local government. “We’re so fragile, and there’s so much to face. If we stop being cautious, we could lose our position,” Zhao lamented.

The exit of his coworker was just one of a litany of factors that have challenged the existence of GCB. They include complicated relationships with local industry and government, competition with foreign NGO’s over international grants, organizational instability, and even the accidental drowning of a volunteer.

After graduating from university in 2003, Zhao worked in the Lanzhou office of the Institute of Modern Physics under the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS). That same year, Zhao and some of his university friends founded GCB.

In October 2007, GCB registered with the Gansu Administration of NGOs. Zhao then quit his job at CAS and became a full-time leader of GCB.

According to Zhao, the GCB’s goal was to conserve the natural environment of West China, where half of China’s ecologically-fragile counties and 60% of its poverty-stricken ones were located.

Presently, water and soil erosion in this region made up 77% of the total national amount. Not only were its grasslands degenerating rapidly, forest coverage was also decreasing to a level far below the national average.