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April 26, 2016

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Lawmakers to vote on overseas NGOs law

A DRAFT law to regulate NGOs from outside the Chinese mainland that eases restrictions on their operations and activities was submitted to the bimonthly session of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee for its third reading yesterday.

The NPC’s Law Committee has suggested it be put to a vote at the session which runs until Thursday.

The bill protects the rights and interests of overseas NGOs, Xu Xianming, the Law Committee’s deputy head, told lawmakers.

Many overseas NGOs involved in charity and academic exchanges in China had played a positive role since the reform and opening-up drive started in the late 1970s, he said. “Since they have grown in number and their activities have intensified, it is necessary to regulate and guide their activities.”

The draft law targets the activities of NGOs founded outside the mainland. However, exchanges and cooperation between Chinese and overseas colleges, hospitals and research institutes of science and engineering will follow existing regulations.

It removes a restriction limiting each NGO to a single office on the Chinese mainland. They will be allowed to open offices according to operational needs after approval by the regulatory authority.

The bill also removes a five-year limit on operations of representative offices in China.

According to the bill, representative offices of overseas NGOs and overseas NGOs carrying out temporary activities in China are not allowed to recruit members on the mainland unless they have obtained approval from the State Council.

Tougher rules are imposed on finances, including the source of funds, expenses and revenue. The bill says the NGOs should have their financial reports audited and published.

The previous version required a permit if an NGO did not have an office on the mainland but wanted to temporarily operate there. Lawmakers and experts had argued that asking for a permit could hold back international exchanges since a huge number of overseas NGOs had engaged in individual programs in China.

Under the draft, instead of the permit, NGOs should report to the regulator 15 days before a program begins while Chinese partners should obtain approval.

The bill allows police to interview chief representatives and senior executives of overseas NGOs and force the Chinese partner to terminate cooperation if it is considered to undermine state security.

Overseas NGOs which engage in illegal activities, including those to subvert the state, will be banned from operating on the mainland.

Foundations and social service organizations operated by overseas NGOs, which have already registered with the civil affairs department, will be able to continue operating, Xu said. “The basic principle in drafting this law is to combine the regulation with service so as to facilitate NGO operations in China.”

Lawmakers agreed that the latest version of the bill, having incorporated opinions and proposals from different sides and the public, had been improved and was ready for a vote.


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