New Foreign NGOs Law Passed
On 28 April, the National People’s Congress, China’s legislative body, passed the long-awaited Law on the Management of Foreign NGOs’ Activities within Mainland China. The new Law, which comes into effect on 1 January 2017, fills a grey area in the Chinese legal system, stipulating that any foreign group wishing to operate in China must register with the public security authorities. This means that the Ministry of Public Security and its local branches down to the county level will formally be in charge of supervising all activities of foreign NGOs in China. The passage of the Law signifies increasing restrictions on the activities of foreign NGOs. Not only will they be barred from engaging in political or religious activities, or acting in a way that damages ‘China’s national interests’ or ‘ethnic unity’, but criminal measures can also be taken against individuals who are suspected of having engaged in activities that violate these broadly-worded principles. As most foreign NGOs operating in China do not have any official registration, no official data are available on their numbers. However, according to one estimate, more than seven thousand international organisations are active in the country today. In light of this widespread presence, the Chinese authorities have argued that such regulation is long overdue, with an op-ed published in the People’s Day on 4 May rhetorically asking: ‘If you do not violate the law, what are you afraid about?’ Still, critics maintain that the laws amount to a crackdown.