The China Philanthropy Times (公益时报网) has published an article on the second draft of the Overseas NGO Management Law of the People’s Republic of China, which was released online on the NPC website for public consultation (the consultation period is from May 5 to June 4). The article explains how the draft has roused extensive attention from Chinese and international NGOs since its release. However it quotes Professor Yang Tuan, Deputy Director of the Research Center of Public Policies of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences as saying “This law is not only going to have a big influence on Chinese NGOs but also the nation as a whole and China’s diplomatic policies”.
It also mentions that the China Charity Alliance together with China Development Brief and NGOCN put together an online questionnaire to collect opinions from the public right after the release of the draft. The China Association for NGO Cooperation (CANGO) also held a seminar on the newly released draft on May 12th. According to Huang Haoming, vice chairman of CANGO, the seminar was so popular that they had to divide it into two sessions due to space limitation. NGOs in Hong Kong are also paying close attention to the draft, according to Howard Liu, Oxfam Hong Kong’s China Program Director. “Hong Kong has lots of social work organizations, most of which have participated in philanthropic projects in mainland China, and family foundations in Hong Kong are also going to be influenced by the law. Many NGOs in Hong Kong are deeply concerned about the drafting of the law”, said Liu.
Below are some of the concerns and suggestions raised at the seminar held by CANGO and mentioned in the Philanthropy Time’s article:
There are several terms and phrases that still need to be clarified. The first problem is, of course, the definition of “overseas organization (境外非政府组织)”. Many representatives participated in the seminar thought the term was too vague, and many countries don’t have this term in their laws and regulations. Another term in question is “activity (活动)”, which is included in many articles of the draft and has no clear meaning. Some representatives also have problem about terms and phrases such as “must not disrupt public order and morality (不得违反公序良俗)” and “political activities (政治活动)”.
2.Is it operational?
First, lots of representatives mentioned the difficulties of applying for registration and temporary activity permits during times of emergency. For example, according to the draft, it can take 60 days for an NGO to apply for a temporary activity permit, which is obviously too long when it comes to emergency work such as earthquake relief. Secondly, another concern is how to find a “professional supervisory unit” in article 40. The draft also says overseas NGOs need the consent of a professional supervisory unit to set up a representative office in China, some organizations in the seminar pose questions about the meaning of “consent”. Thirdly, article 13 of the draft stipulates:”The representative office of an overseas NGO does not have the status of a legal person”, which is also problematic because only legal persons can sign contracts and bear legal responsibilities.
3.Exchange and communication between China and the international community
According to article 26 of the draft, overseas NGOs and their representative offices in China must not conduct fundraising activities or accept donations in China unless otherwise approved by the State Council. Several organizations that attended CANGO’s meeting thought that it’s not fair that overseas NGOs can’t raise money in China. “If the draft is strictly implemented it will not just be addressing national security issues, it’ll impact society and the public interest sector in China as well as the openness and economic development of the country”, said Jia Xijin, Associate Professor at the School of Public Policy and Management of Tsinghua University. Huang Haoming also stressed that, “We truly hope we can keep communicating and maintain a good relationship with public security departments, professional supervisory units, departments of civil affairs, and other relevant departments to build a better legal system together in the future.”