Foreign NGOs Law Enforced

On 1 January, the controversial Law on the Management of Foreign NGOs’ Activities within Mainland China came into force. To clarify matters in the midst of legal and procedural uncertainty—the list of agencies allowed to supervise foreign organisations and the areas these organisations can work in was only released at the end of December—in early January the Ministry of Public Security (MPS) published an online manual in Chinese on how to register foreign NGOs. Roughly at the same time, thirty-six Chinese lawyers formed a legal service group to advise foreign NGOs and their local partners on matters related to the new legislation. Still, in early March only three dozen organisations had been able to complete the registration process. These included the World Economic Forum, Save the Children, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, as well as several chambers of commerce. Many foreign NGOs simply adopted an attitude of wait and see, suspending their activities in China until they could observe how other organisations would fare in the registration process. Still, according to some observers, this difficult start did not warrant excessive pessimism. In the words of civil society scholar Shawn Shieh: ‘In my experience working with Chinese and foreign NGOs in China is that both are quite creative and persistent and as long as there are pressing social needs for their work, they will find ways to work through or around the NGO Law.’ IF

(Sources: China Development Brief; China Law Translate; The Diplomat; NGOs in China; South China Morning Post)

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