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Will China’s New Foreign NGO Law Affect Me?

If you’re with a non-profit organization that has activities in China, the new law applies to you, regardless of whether you are actually located in China.

The law, set to go into effect on January 1, 2017, defines foreign NGOs as “not-for-profit, non-governmental social organizations lawfully established outside mainland China, such as foundations, social groups, and think tank institutions.”

The law specifically addresses the following:

  • Engaging in religious activities
  • Carrying out activities in China without registering through proper channels
  • Engaging individuals or entities in China to conduct activities
  • Funding individuals or groups within China
  • Recruiting members or volunteers
  • Using a for-profit entity to conduct NGO activities
  • Establishing branch organizations within China
  • Requiring partners or beneficiaries in China to engage in activities that are illegal
  • Raising funds within China
  • Using funds from bank accounts in China that are not specifically approved for authorized nonprofit activities

In addition, provisions regarding state security, ethnic unity, and the “national interest” are broad enough to potentially encompass a wide range of activities, subject to interpretation by local authorities.

The implementation measures for the new law are currently being drafted by the Ministry of Public Security, the government organ charged with enforcing the law. The law gives the MPS broad powers to investigate individual and organizational activities, organizational records, and bank accounts, and to shut down activities and seize assets where violations of the law are discovered.

Foreign individuals engaged in illegal activities may be detained for up to 15 days, expelled from the country, or, where criminal activity is involved, held for prosecution.

While it is still too early to know how broadly and how thoroughly the new law will be applied, affected organizations should begin now to review current operations in light the new NGO legislation.

For more on the foreign NGO law see the following articles. 

Brent Fulton

Brent Fulton

Brent Fulton is the founder of ChinaSource.  Dr. Fulton served as the first president of ChinaSource until 2019. Prior to his service with ChinaSource, he served from 1995 to 2000 as the managing director of the Institute for Chinese Studies at Wheaton College. From 1987 to 1995 he served as founding …View Full Bio

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