China issues guideline on foreign NGO registration

By Deng Xiaoci Source:Global Times Published: 2016/11/30 0:18:39

Measures will make use of NGO funds more transparent

China has issued a guideline on the registration of foreign NGOs in the mainland, reiterating the need for government supervision and declaring sources of funding amid controversies.

The guideline, which was released on Monday on the official website of the Ministry of Public Security (MPS), is generally in line with the Foreign NGO Management Law approved in April by the National People's Congress, aiming to regulate the activities of foreign NGOs in the Chinese mainland as well as to protect their legitimate rights and interests, and to facilitate communication and cooperation.

The West criticized the law as "smothering civil society," but China argues that the legislation is necessary to protect the rule of law.

The guideline states that to open a representative office, foreign NGOs are required to submit documents, including identification documents and the curriculum vitae of the person in charge of the proposed office and a statement certifying he or she has no criminal record, as well as evidence of the source of funds. Upon registering a representative office, the NGO must provide its scope of operations and area of activities.

The guideline also says foreign NGOs without an established representative, but which need to conduct temporary activities in the Chinese mainland shall do so in cooperation with "Chinese partners," which refers to State organs, people's organizations, public institutions and social organizations.

The Chinese partners shall handle examination and approval procedures in accordance with State regulations and submit them to local registration authorities 15 days before temporary activities begin, the guideline states.

The guideline takes effect on January 1 when the official registration windows open, a staff member at the Foreign NGO Management Bureau of the MPS confirmed with the Global Times on Tuesday.

Over 7,000 foreign NGOs operate in China.

The Foreign NGO Management Law also takes effect on January 1. 

Protecting donors' rights

A foreign charity lawyer told the Global Times on Tuesday that many large NGOs involved in charity work are taking their funds out of China to avoid registering with the MPS.

The lawyer, who requested anonymity, said these NGOs "fear the public knows where the money goes."

"Frankly, it used to be very free here, I could find people here working for the charity [who were] very  disreputable in their own country, and I have seen many financial scams, committed in most cases not by Chinese but by foreigners," the lawyer said.

An employee surnamed Xu from the Shanghai Office of Project HOPE, a US-based NGO, told the Global Times on Tuesday that "the guideline looks very clear now, more structured, more detailed than previous documents. The management is also becoming more specific."

According to Article 9 of the Foreign NGO Management Law, foreign NGOs cannot carry out or engage in any activity if they have not registered any representative office or submitted documents stating that it intends to carry out temporary activities. They will also be forbidden from entrusting or financing any organization or individual to carry out activities on its behalf in the Chinese mainland.

"The law creates a feedback mechanism by requesting NGOs to open bank accounts created within the country … Then, people will have an idea of how NGOs use the funds. It is an accountability procedure that the government is making for the donors," the lawyer said.


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