First Batch of Overseas NGOs Register Under China’s New Law
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2017-01-20 06:12:00

A total of six foreign nongovernmental organizations have secured official registrations under China’s new foreign NGO law, which came into effect on Jan. 1 and has been criticized for its vague language and strict stipulations, including one that requires groups to register with the Public Security Bureau, China’s police.  

The law states that foreign organizations operating on the mainland must not “endanger China’s national unity, security, or ethnic unity” or “harm China’s national interests, societal public interest, and the lawful rights and interests of citizens, legal persons, and other organizations.”

The six organizations are all based in Shanghai and were named earlier this week in local Shanghai news reports after they received approval from the municipal public security bureau on Tuesday. The majority of them are not charitable or advocacy organizations, but rather the Shanghai offices of chambers of commerce: the US-China Business Council, the Canada China Business Council, the Russian chamber of commerce, and the Confederation of Indian Industry. 

Two charitable organizations were also registered. One of them, the World Health Foundation, known as Project Hope in English, has helped build the Shanghai Children's Medical Center and writes on its website that it has “partnered with Chinese leadership and Ministry of Health since 1983.” The other is the Hong Kong Yin Shin Leung Charitable Foundation, which has built schools and medical centers in rural areas on the mainland since it first registered with the Bureau of Civil Affairs in 2007. The foundation filed the required registration paperwork on the day the law came into effect, Gu Hongming, the assistant to the director of the foundation’s Shanghai office, told Sixth Tone.

Other groups have told Sixth Tone that they are still working to complete the necessary paperwork for registration, engage government offices to obtain more information about the specifics of the law, and find a suitable sponsor. Under the law, which was passed in April 2016, NGOs must report to the police but also have to be sponsored by a government agency or mass organization. The list of departments and groups that can sponsor NGOs was only released on Dec. 20, 2016, 11 days before the law came into effect. 

Gu, however, described the process as very straightforward. “It was very smooth,” he said, adding that it took less than two weeks for his organization’s registration to be approved after submitting the application. An interview with the municipal public security bureau  also went smoothly, Gu said. “The public security bureau asked us several simple questions, like ‘Who’s your representative?’” he said. 

Gu said that the main difference since the law took effect is the authority responsible for oversight of organizations like his: Previously, NGOs had to report to civil affairs bureaus rather than the public security bureau. “We have a good relationship with the Chinese government and won their support for our work,” he said.

(Header image: Kim Kyung-hoon/Reuters/VCG)