China Seeks to Reassure Foreign NGOs On Draft Legislation

Last week, and for the first time since it was proposed in May, the Chinese government addressed draft legislation that many worry would place strict regulations on foreign nongovernmental organizations operating in the country.

China’s Minister of Public Security last week sought to reassure foreign nongovernmental organizations that a new draft law to regulate their activities in China won’t stifle their operations.

Guo Shengkun issued a statement saying that China “welcomes and supports foreign NGOs carrying out friendly exchanges and cooperation.” Guo added, however, that foreign NGOs interested in China’s development should “conscientiously abide by Chinese laws.”

The draft law, known as the Foreign NGO Law, was shared for public comment in May and would require associations and other foreign NGOs to register or obtain temporary permits to conduct activities in China. ASAE submitted comments on the draft law last month, expressing concern that collaboration between U.S. associations and their Chinese counterparts could be severely curtailed if the law’s rigorous restrictions were adopted without changes.

“While the draft law seeks to establish a regulatory framework for nonmainland nongovernmental organizations (including trade associations and professional societies) to operate in China, the registration process is onerous and overly burdensome and would likely lead a broad range of organizations that have been active in China to rethink their involvement,” ASAE said.

Associations are also concerned about the draft law’s overly broad definitions of terms like “activity” and “NGO,” the requirement that all NGOs have a government-affiliated sponsor, and the legislation’s reference to foreign NGOs as potential threats to China’s national security.

Under Chinese law, draft legislation is reviewed by a Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress three times before it moves to a vote. While it’s unclear at this time if any significant changes will be made to the current draft, the legislation could be reviewed for a third time during one of the three remaining meetings of the Standing Committee this year—in late August, late October, or late December.

Chris Vest, CAE

By Chris Vest, CAE

Chris Vest, CAE is vice president, corporate communications and public relations at ASAE. MORE

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