China Still Mulling Draft NGO Law

This month, Chinese authorities confirmed they are still reviewing comments on proposed legislation that would restrict activity of foreign non-governmental organizations in the country, even though the comments period has long been closed.

The Chinese government is still reviewing comments on draft legislation that would require foreign-based nonprofit organizations (NGOs) to be vetted by China’s security police before they conduct business activities in China, according to multiple sources.

Outside experts quoted by The New York Times don’t expect the law to be dropped entirely, but the Chinese government’s cautious approach could mean that it is considering outside opinions before finalizing the legislation.

At a news conference March 4, Fu Ying, a spokesperson for the National People’s Congress, confirmed that the government is still considering the comments it received from organizations around the world, even though the comment period ended 10 months ago.

“It has still not yet been definitely decided which session of the Standing Committee will submit the review,” Fu said. “We still have to deal with various recommendations and opinions in order to revise this law well.”

“We need to clearly specify which activities are illegal,” she continued. “Mostly, we are trying to provide a more standardized legal environment, not trying to restrict foreign NGOs from conducting beneficial activities in China.”

This echoed statements made by Chinese President Xi Jinping to business leaders in Seattle on his visit to the U.S. in September. He said China will not restrict foreign NGO activity “so long as their activities are beneficial to the Chinese people.”

ASAE submitted comments on the draft law last June, expressing concern with the law’s provisions that would require foreign non-governmental organizations (such as U.S.-based trade and professional associations) to have a government-affiliated sponsor and be vetted by Chinese law enforcement officials before conducting activities in China.

“While the draft law seeks to establish a regulatory framework for non-mainland non-governmental 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.


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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