China Intent on Restricting NGOs
On a visit to the United States, Chinese President Xi Jinping addressed a proposed law that would place restrictions on foreign nongovernmental organizations operating in China. Despite concerns raised by U.S. associations and other NGOs, the measure is expected to pass without changes.
Speaking to U.S. business leaders in Seattle last week, Chinese President Xi Jinping downplayed American concerns over a draft law that would subject foreign nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) operating in China to greater scrutiny.
Xi said China will not restrict the activities of foreign NGOs “so long as their activities are beneficial to the Chinese people,” as reported by several news outlets.
“On their part, foreign NGOs in China need to obey Chinese law and carry out activities in accordance with the law,” Xi added.
China’s draft law, expected to pass this year, would require foreign NGOs—including trade associations—to have a sponsor within the Chinese government and submit “work plans” detailing their planned activities to Chinese police for approval, among other provisions.
ASAE submitted comments [PDF] on the draft law in June, 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.
“We are very concerned this draft legislation would make it extremely difficult for U.S. trade associations and professional societies to be active in China,” ASAE President and CEO John H. Graham, IV, FASAE, CAE, said in the letter to the Chinese National People’s Congress. “Major restrictions would be placed on the ability of our association professionals to meet, share knowledge, conduct business, and share best practices with Chinese associations.”
While it’s possible that Chinese officials could make changes to the current draft, Xi’s comments and a recent Washington Post interview with China’s deputy representative for international trade, Zhang Xiangchen, suggest that the law will most likely be enacted as is.
In the interview, Zhang said concerns with the draft law reflect a “lack of understanding” by U.S. business leaders and that the law is “like a hanging sword, which will only fall upon those that are engaged in activities that will undermine China’s national security or social stability.”
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. The draft legislation could be reviewed for a third time during one of the two remaining meetings of the Standing Committee this year in late October or late December.
China isn’t alone in its attempt to tighten control on NGOs. This summer, the Cambodian parliament approved controversial draft legislation that will give it the ability to disband these organizations if their activities jeopardize “peace, stability, and public order or harm the national security, national unity, culture, and traditions of Cambodian society.” Earlier this year, Egypt clamped down on NGOs as part of a push to eliminate dissent in the country.
Chinese President Xi Jinping, seen speaking at the U.N. Headquarters earlier this week. (Carlo Allegri/Reuters)