04/29/2016, 14.07
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Beijing changes law on foreign NGOs, giving police sweeping powers

Until now, the Ministry of Civil Affairs handled applications and paper work. Nearly 10,000 foreign NGOs are present on the mainland. For the German ambassador, the law is too restrictive. For NGO official, it damages charitable activities.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – China has granted police the power to regulate foreign non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

Adopted yesterday, the ‘Law on Domestic Activities of Overseas Nongovernmental Organisations’ will come into effect on 1 January 2017.

The new legislation stipulates that all foreign NGOs must register with police rather than with the Ministry of Civil Affairs like their domestic counterparts. Foreign NGOs with temporary projects have to seek approval and register with police as well. Nearly 10,000 foreign NGOs are present on the mainland, authorities say.

The law lists fields in which foreign NGOs will be allowed to work, including economics, education, science and technology, culture, health, sports, environmental protection, disaster and poverty relief, and “other areas”.

It is not clear whether the religious aspects of some of these activities will be allowed.

The Ministry of Public Security said it would take time to draft a catalogue defining the areas for foreign NGOs.

Hao Yunhong, director of the Ministry of Public Security’s Foreign NGO Management Office, said many fields would be included in the catalogue and that the ministry held an “open, tolerant, active and supporting attitude” towards foreign NGOs.

“But for those supporting or orchestrating illegal activities in China, we would certainly deal with them in accordance to the law,” Hao said.

Guo Linmao, an official with the National People’s Congress Standing Committee’s Legal Affairs Commission, said the law was an affirmation of foreign NGOs’ contribution to China.

Yet it also took into account the “small number” that conducted “illegal and criminal” activities, and empowered police to deal with them.

He added that the law granted police extra powers because they were already handling foreigners’ activities and immigration.

Foreign governments and NGOs are not reassured.

“Despite a number of improvements, the law does not dispel our concern that it could make cooperation with German partners more difficult in the future,” said the German Ambassador to China, Michael Clauss.

“The law,” he added, “continues to focus strongly on security and contains numerous approval and documentation requirements, as well as other norms restricting ­activities. For this reason, Germany would have welcomed . . . another opportunity for consultations.”

Lu Jun, founder of Yirenping, which campaigns on health and employment, said the law would “damage the course of charity and public interest in China severely”.

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