Amid signs of discontent, new law hits China’s rights groups’ funding


China’s new law regulating charities is a further blow to its rights activists, and could restrict any non-government group from raising funds to help some of the country’s most vulnerable people, an overseas-based rights group said.

The Charities Law was adopted by China’s parliament, the National People’s Congress (NPC) on Mar. 16, and will take effect on Sept. 1, RFA reports:

“The new legislation is yet another tool the government can use to strangle independent organizations in China’s emerging civil society,” the Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) network, which collates reports from groups operating inside China, said in a report on its website.

The law places further restrictions on non-government organizations (NGOs), already hard hit by a nationwide crackdown on their activities under the administration of President Xi Jinping, the report said. If NGOs raise funds without government-approved status, they could face criminal investigation, which could hit a raft of informal fund-raising methods including online donations and crowd-funding.

The law seems targeted to hit groups defending the rights of vulnerable groups in China, CHRD said. From Sept. 1, any such group could be required to “register according to law” and apply for a funding certificate that could take two years to process.

“These restrictions would close off potential funding channels for independent advocacy groups and for private citizens collecting funds online to support prisoners of conscience or government critics facing hefty fines by authorities,” CHRD said, citing donations raised to help artist Ai Weiwei during his unofficial detention for “tax evasion” and those raised to pay legal fees for detained rights lawyer Wang Yu. RTWT

Signs of discontent

A recent series of public letters voicing internal party dissent are “very meaningful,” said Columbia University professor Andrew Nathan, “because I think the key is that Xi is losing the support of the high levels of the Chinese Communist Party. They’re not willing to rally around him the way that they did in the Mao period.”

“It’s a more critical time. They’re more independent. He’s demanding absolute loyalty, and people are no longer willing to offer that,” he tells PBS:

What’s very dangerous, though, for the leadership is if there is a split and it comes out into the open. That then sends a signal to lots of people in China who are dissatisfied.

There are many people unhappy because the economy is slowing down and because people are losing jobs. Xi Jinping is attacking the state-owned enterprises to try to force them to be more efficient. He wants to reorganize the military. He has this big anti-corruption campaign.

“So, we know there are a lot of people who are dissatisfied, but they’re afraid to do anything,” says Nathan, a board member of the National Endowment for Democracy. “But if they see a split in the leadership, which is what people saw back in 1989, when they view that split in the leadership, there is a real risk of social disorder in China.”

In Hong Kong, a furor erupted over the disappearance of several booksellers who planned to publish a salacious volume of political gossip centered on Xi’s romantic liaisons before becoming president, reports suggest.

“This is a supreme irony,” Willy Lam, a Chinese politics expert at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, says. “Xi Jinping is much more powerful than Hu Jintao or even Jiang Zemin [were] yet they never showed this kind of paranoia.

“His power is based on fear.”

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