China Approves Foreign NGO Law

The country’s lawmakers passed a law last week that will require foreign-based nonprofit organizations to register with the police and find an official Chinese sponsor.

Chinese lawmakers passed a controversial law on April 28 that will require foreign-based nonprofit organizations (NGOs) to be vetted by Chinese police before they conduct any operations in China.

A Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress approved a new draft of the law that will require foreign-based nonprofits to register with the Ministry of Public Security and submit to a review of their operations, including their finances, at any time.

Such groups will also have to be sponsored by a Chinese partner organization before conducting any activities in the country. The law will take effect January 1, 2017. State news reports estimate that more than 7,000 foreign NGOs will be affected.

Chinese officials have said the new law is intended to help clarify how foreign nonprofits can operate in China, but the nation’s leaders have also expressed security concerns and wariness of nonprofits spreading Western influences on Chinese society. According to media reports, the law does not clearly define foreign NGOs, but it is likely to cover foreign charities and trade associations.

ASAE was among the many organizations that submitted comments [PDF] to Chinese officials when an earlier draft of the law was released last year.

“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.

While the full text of the newly passed  law was not immediately available, ASAE remains concerned that the registration and screening process for foreign nonprofit groups will be draconian and could lead many U.S.-based associations to rethink their involvement in China.

China isn’t alone in its attempt to tighten control on NGOs. In July 2015, 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.” And earlier in 2015, Egypt clamped down on NGOs as part of a push to eliminate dissent in the country.


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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