China is considering the first-ever law on overseas nongovernmental organizations to better facilitate and regulate their activities in the country.
The new bill on NGOs based outside the Chinese mainland was presented for its first reading on Dec 22, according to Xinhua News Agency. It was submitted to the bimonthly session of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, which is being held from Dec 22 to 28.
Yang Huanning, vice-minister of public security, told lawmakers that the law aims to regulate the activities of overseas NGOs in China, protect their legal rights and interests, and promote exchanges and cooperation between Chinese and foreigners.
Under the law, nongovernmental organizations will have to register with and be approved by Chinese authorities if they want to set up representative offices or temporarily operate on the mainland, Yang said.
Details of the draft have not been disclosed.
Currently, about 1,000 overseas NGOs operate on the mainland on a regular basis, and an additional 3,000 to 5,000 work temporarily on certain programs, experts estimated.
Funds channeled by them into the country amount to hundreds of millions of dollars each year for projects in more than 20 fields, including poverty reduction, health, environmental protection and education.
Wang Cunkui, a professor with the Department of Criminal Investigation at People’s Public Security University, told Chinese Social Sciences Today, a newspaper of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, in May that overseas NGOs have brought international funding, advanced technology and management experience to China.
“These helped promote China’s overall development. But problems, even breaches of the law, also exist in some of their activities,” he said.
He added that a law is urgently needed to provide a legal basis for managing their activities.
Bao Yugang, senior program director for Asia of the US-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation, said he welcomed such a law.
The NGO, founded in Los Angeles in 1987, has provided medical care to more than 300,000 AIDS patients in at least 20 countries, including China.
“The coming law fills a legal blank concerning overseas NGOs like us and will allow us a platform to work legally and more efficiently in China,” he told China Daily on Dec 22.
He said he was concerned about legal registration, adding that the legal status of overseas NGOs is currently granted by civil affairs authorities on an individual basis.
The limited number that have successfully registered include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Save the Children.
“More than 90 percent of overseas NGOs couldn’t get registered and operate in a ‘gray area’,” he said. AHF has been working in China for almost 10 years in partnership with a Chinese NGO supervised by the National Health and Family Planning Commission.
“A legal status after registration helps with project implementation here and fund-use efficiency,” he said.
Vice-Foreign Minister Cheng Guoping has said that the Chinese government welcomes and supports the activities of overseas NGOs in the country.
But they should enhance their understanding of China and abide by the nation’s laws and regulations, he told Xinhua.