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Foreign NGO Management Law

How Might it Affect You?

Earlier this month a spokesman for China’s National People’s Congress (NPC) announced that the NPC Standing Committee is scheduled to review the draft law governing foreign NGOs operating in China. Here is the report from Reuters:

China's largely rubber stamp parliament will this month again review its controversial draft law governing foreign non-government organizations, state news agency Xinhua said on Friday.

The draft law, which has triggered a storm of criticism from countries such as the United States, Canada and the European Union, requires foreign non-profit bodies to find official sponsors, typically a government-backed agency, and gives broad latitude to the police to regulate activities and funding.

Parliament's spokeswoman said last month that the government needed more time to revise the draft NGO law as it was still listening to advice on its content.

In a brief report, the official Xinhua news agency said the law would be reviewed again at a meeting of parliament's standing committee from April 25 to 28.

In a post on this blog last year, Brent Fulton noted that the new law would come as a relief or a rude awakening, depending on what one is trying to accomplish in China.

The American Chamber of Commerce in China (AmCham China) would like to find out how organizations in China anticipate being affected by the new law. To that end, they are inviting organizations to participate in a survey. Here is the invitation from AmCham China: 

Greetings from the American Chamber of Commerce in the People’s Republic of China (AmCham China,  We invite your organization to participate in an important survey of non-profit organizations.  The goal of the survey is to assess the potential impact of China’s proposed new law to regulate foreign non-profit, non-governmental organizations in China.  (See for a summary of the draft Foreign NGO Management Law.)  We are sending this survey to organizations like yours that we believe engage in activities in China.  Our objective is to promote a positive operating environment in China for you and your Chinese partners.

Respondents will be anonymous and results of the survey will be aggregated so your responses will not be attributed to your organization by name.  The aggregated analyses are likely to be shared with Chinese officials as part of efforts to convey the views of organizations like yours to Chinese policymakers.  To thank you for your participation, we will also share with you the highlights of the survey.

By May 2, please visit to answer the survey, which will take approximately 10 minutes to complete.  Please submit only one completed survey per organization.  Smaller entities that are part of a large institution, such as an academic center at a university, may complete the survey as if they were distinct organizations.

It was expected that the law would be enacted at the National People’s Congress in March, but that did not happen. Writing in The New York Times, here’s what Didi Kirsten Tatlow had to say about the delay:

Yet two drafts later, a “Foreign NGO Management Law” still has not passed, raising questions as to if the government is reconsidering whether the national security-driven legislation could crimp international cooperation in areas it cares about—such as education, industry and the environment—as it seeks to expand the economy in new ways.

In an article for The Diplomat, Reza Hasmith, of the University of Alberta lays out some of the pros and cons of the law:

The latest iterations of China’s Charity and Foreign NGO Management Laws, discussed during the recent National People’s Congress, present an interesting paradox. On the one hand, the laws, in total, will create a less free civil society and severely reduce the influence of foreign actors on the domestic affairs of China. On the other hand, if the laws are implemented as designed, they will provide a more accountable and predictable home-grown civil society.

And to paraphrase and old saying, we live in interesting times!

Image credit: Wikipedia
Joann Pittman

Joann Pittman

Joann Pittman is Vice President of Partnership and China Engagement and editor of ZGBriefs. Prior to joining ChinaSource, Joann spent 28 years working in China, as an English teacher, language student, program director, and cross-cultural trainer for organizations and businesses engaged in China. She has also taught Chinese at the University …View Full Bio

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