Implementation of China’s new Foreign NGO Management Law is now only two weeks away and much confusion remains. Knowing that many US citizens will be affected by this law, the Bureau of Diplomatic Security of the US State Department issued a security alert on December 14 to US citizens working with foreign NGOs in China:
On January 1, 2017, China’s Ministry of Public Security will begin implementing and enforcing the new Foreign NGO Management Law, imposing a new regulatory framework on all foreign NGOs regardless of their sphere of activity. The MPS has published NGO registration guidelines on its website, although some requirements and procedures remain unclear. U.S. citizens employed by or associated with non-governmental organizations operating in China may face special scrutiny and/or penalties for non-compliance with the new law and regulations.
In other words, don’t be surprised if your office is visited by local security officials.
On Thursday, The Wall Street Journal published an article by Josh Chin providing an excellent overview of the confusing situation and how it is beginning to impact organizations working in China.
Hundreds of international nonprofits in China are bracing for the new year when a law rolled out as part of President Xi Jinping ’s push against unwanted foreign influence threatens to make them illegal.
The uncertainty stems from new rules requiring foreign nonprofits to register with police and have a government sponsor, among other restrictions. The nonprofits most at risk are smaller groups working on criminal justice and rule of law. But without key information on how to register, groups operating even in non-sensitive fields are in danger of ending up violating the law.
Just who is going to be affected? Chin writes:
China estimates 7,000 foreign groups have activities in the country, while experts say those with a long-term presence number less than a thousand. A few large organizations like the Ford Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation are formally registered under older regulations, but the vast majority operate in a regulatory gray area, registered as businesses or sometimes not at all.
Authorities have signaled that groups working on civil rights will have trouble registering, according to Western diplomats.
As is noted in both posts, however, the list of supervisory units with whom organizations can be registered has not yet been released (as of this posting, at least). Given the fact that the Ministry of Public Security has indicated they will not offer a grace period, it would be nice if they would let people know where to register!
We will continue to monitor developments with the law and do our best to keep you informed.
Joann Pittman is senior vice president of ChinaSource 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