China to review overseas NGO law

By Li Ruohan Source:Global Times Published: 2016-4-25 0:43:01

Police oversight of foreign organizations likely to remain

China is scheduled to conduct its third review of the draft law on overseas NGOs on Monday, with insiders believing that articles enforcing police supervision are likely to remain. 

The Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC) will convene and review the draft law from Monday to Thursday in Beijing. It could be the last review of the controversial law before it is passed.

Insiders who participated in drafting and collecting opinions on the law told the Global Times that the articles requiring NGOs to register under public security departments as well as articles requiring police supervision over their activities are likely to remain.

"The engagement of police departments is unlikely to change as the law was designed for national security," Huang Haoming, deputy director of the China Association for NGO Cooperation, told the Global Times.

Chinese authorities are aware and concerned that foreign NGOs can be used by states to promote their objectives and values, or achieve other political agenda.

The draft NGO law stipulates that overseas NGOs should be registered, supervised and managed by public security departments. It also says that police can check the offices of overseas NGOs, question their employees, look at their materials and seal their offices.

Many overseas NGOs reached by the Global Times said they are confused about why public security involvement was specifically included in this law.

Caspar Welbergen, chief representative of the Beijing office of Stiftung Mercator, a German foundation, told the Global Times that currently there are already laws about what police or security forces can do if there are violations,.

Huang said that the understanding of such articles is different when read with the perspective of national security and with the view of social development. Experts also pointed out that some overseas NGOs have brought national security concerns to China.

Chinese police in January busted a legal aid organization which had been receiving overseas funds to conduct activities that endanger national security, media reported.

Peter Dahlin, a Swedish citizen, together with lawyers from the Beijing-based Fengrui Law Firm, set up over 10 "legal aid centers" in the Chinese mainland to train unlicensed lawyers and support petitioners to defame China and sensationalize social issues, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

"The involvement of Ministry of Public Security (MPS) will not be dropped, and it's not necessary to do so, as the involvement of police - who are presently in change of many foreigner-related issues - could better serve their development," Wang Cunkui, a professor with the People's Public Security University of China, told the Global Times. 


Other concerns come from the ambiguity of the law, which NGOs said might leave their activities open to interpretation by law enforcers.

For example, article 5 says the activities of overseas NGOs should not harm national interests or good customs. "However, there's no list of what would be considered as harming national interests, and I think it's impossible to clarify what are good customs and bad customs," Caspar said. 

He added that article 15 which requires a re-registration for their organizations every five years was also worrying.

Analysts in general declined to comment on whether a new revision would clarify some of the terms.

Huang noted that if the law is passed, judicial interpretations from the Supreme People's Court might be needed.

However, in a meeting attended by Caspar and representatives from five other overseas NGOs in Shanghai in July to collect their opinions, Xu Xianming, deputy director of the NPC Law Committee said China's opening-up policy will not change after the overseas NGO law is implemented. Xu said China wishes to push for rule of law, and the drafting of this law is a significant process to strengthen this goal.

Discussion of the law began last October and the law was twice reviewed in December 2014 and in April 2015. Experts and representatives from overseas NGOs working in China were invited to voice their opinions.

There are more than 7,000 overseas NGOs in the country, mainly in sectors such as environmental protection, science and technology, education and culture, which have brought useful expertise and funding to the country, Fu Ying, spokesperson for the annual session of NPC said in March.

Newspaper headline: China to review NGO law

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