The Lantern

Keeping Track of Developments

In the current policy environment, it’s no longer “business as usual” for faith-based organizations serving in China. Legal changes call into question the viability of some ministries. Others are finding ways within the new laws to continue serving. ChinaSource is watching the situation closely as we provide counsel to organizations dealing with these changes.

Brent Fulton

On January 1 of this year, China’s new Overseas NGO Management Law went into effect. This law requires all foreign NGOs to register with local officials as well as with the Ministry of Public Security in order to conduct activities within China. While many of those serving in China do so as teachers, students, or business people, and thus are granted work or student visas, there are many who serve with foreign NGOs that have operated with either local approval or approval from the Ministry of Civil Affairs. The new law is bringing about the most change for these groups.

At ChinaSource, we have been working to keep on top of the latest developments regarding the new law, and how it is impacting those serving in China. In case you missed them, we’d like to highlight three blogs for you here.

On February 1, Brent Fulton provided some much-needed context in a post titled The “Why” Behind China’s New Overseas NGO Law:

Making sense of the new legislation also requires a grasp of its larger policy context. Understanding the underlying concerns that gave rise to the legislation will help organizations know which of their activities might come under particular scrutiny. A change in posture, positioning, or certain operational aspects of an organization’s work could make it more likely that this work can continue in the new environment.

He then went on to remind us that the law must be understood within the context of three important trends: the government’s need for and emphasis on social stability; the government’s emphasis on rule by law; and a generally more pervasive anti-Western sentiment.

On March 1, Brent showed how this new law is establishing a set of new realities for foreign groups working in China, and how they are responding:

There is no “one size fits all” approach for organizations seeking to deal with the new law. Foreign NGOs will likely require a portfolio of approaches depending on the nature of the work, where it is being done, and the degree to which they are willing and able to work with officials at various levels.

Some organizations whose activities fall outside the bounds prescribed by the law will choose to accept the risks and continue with their activities. Others, by making adjustments to their posture in China, how they position themselves outside China, their organizational and legal structures, and the way in which they conduct their activities, will be able to continue to engage in China while not running afoul of the new law.

On March 15, Brent commented on the news that a number of foreign NGOs have successfully completed the registration process. While some have registered, the process has not been easy:

These developments have prompted some NGO observers to ask whether the new law’s purpose all along was simply to discourage overseas groups from even attempting to serve in China, and to send a strong signal to those currently engaged that it’s time to leave. While the new law makes it technically possible for foreign organizations to register and function effectively, only time will tell whether those who are currently in the throes of registration will be successful. In the meantime, many feel as if they’ve just moved from one grey area to another.

We have also produced a document called the ChinaSource Law and Policy Monitor as part of a consulting package. Please contact for more information.

Pray for Christian NGOs in China as they monitor the impact of this law on their work and as they make difficult decisions. At this point, we know of one group that has successfully registered, and several who have decided not to pursue registration.

With all the uncertainties, what we do know, however, is that God’s Word will “run and be glorified” whether there are foreign NGOs in China or not. And for that we are grateful.

News and Notes

  • On March 20 Brent Fulton was interviewed by Ian Johnson about his book China’s Urban Christians on the New York Times Chinese website.
  • Brent Fulton was quoted in “Young, Restless, and Reformed,” an article posted on The Gospel Coalition on March 27.
  • On April 1 Joann Pittman spoke at the Hospitality Center for Chinese in St. Paul, about her book The Bells Are Not Silent: Stories of Church Bells in China.
  • Joann also spoke about her book at a Sunday school class at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis on April 2.
  • On April 5 Hannah Lau spoke at Island ECC’s women’s ministry.

Save the Date

On May 27, a ChinaSource Connect event will be held in Hong Kong at ECC’s Ministry Centre in Kowloon at 6:30pm. RSVP to as dinner will be provided. Invitation and more details to come soon. 

Ways to Pray

  • We are grateful for insights gained from our research study, Partners in Mission. Pray that these findings will translate into effective ministry strategies as they’re shared with organizations and churches.
  • Pray that the ChinaSource Institute online courses will be effective in equipping many who are preparing for summer short-term trips to China.
  • Continue to lift up the Faith and Generosity in China Initiative. We still need an additional US$32,509 this spring to enable the provision of needed resources for Christians in China. (For more information visit our Projects page.)

In Case You Missed It

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ChinaSource Team

ChinaSource Team

Written, translated, or edited by members of the ChinaSource staff.          View Full Bio

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