The real purpose of China’s new anti-NGO law


China’s new anti-NGO law is evidence of a xenophobic shift in the country’s politics, an anti-foreign turn driven by several related trends, The Wall Street Journal notes:

First, President Xi Jinping has a much lower tolerance than Deng for the unwelcome intrusion of foreign ideas about democracy, press freedom and individual rights that come along with trade and investment—what Deng called “flies and mosquitoes.” The other day, Mr. Xi was railing against “Western capitalist values” invading the Communist Party’s own training schools.

Second, Mr. Xi is pushing ideology harder than any leader in decades. Increasingly, China sees itself in ideological confrontation with the West. In addition to stressing Marxism, Mr. Xi’s administration is seeking to revive traditional Chinese culture to counter Western ideas.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison and International Center for Not-for-Profit Law’s Mark Sidel provided an overview of the new NGO law’s requirements at Foreign Policy, notes China Digital Times:

[…] In most respects, it retains the draconian nature of the earlier draft, with some minor revisions. Foreign nonprofits and foundations must still be registered and authorized through the [Ministry of Public Security]. They still must find a Chinese partner organization to take responsibility for all the foreign entity’s work in China before the latter can apply for registration with the MPS. Chinese partner organizations must be vetted in advance. Preferred or approved project lists will be issued by the MPS and other agencies; it is not clear whether projects not listed will be permitted. Groups that don’t plan to have offices in China, but only intend to conduct what the law calls “temporary activities,” must still register (albeit with less paperwork) and must still have a domestic partner.

Even after a foreign NGO jumps these hurdles, serious restrictions on its activities will remain. Overseas nonprofits will be allowed only to work in certain enumerated fields that include the economy, education, science, culture, health, sports, and the environment. (An “et cetera” at the end of this list indicates that additional fields might be approved.) They can generally only work within the geographic area for which a given activity has been approved.

In his report on the new law at The Guardian, Tom Phillips highlighted the reaction of one prominent Chinese campaigner, who warned that political organizations would not be the only ones to suffer, CDT adds:

Lu Jun, a well-known social activist who was forced to move to the US last year after his organisation was targeted by law enforcement, described the decision to give greater powers to police as a disaster.

“The real purpose of the foreign NGO law is to restrict foreign NGOs’ activities in China and to restrict domestic-rights NGOs’ activities in China by cutting the connection between [the two],” he said. 


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