Date
23 November 2017
President Xi Jinping's administration has made sweeping changes to the law in the name of boosting national security. Photo: Reuters
President Xi Jinping's administration has made sweeping changes to the law in the name of boosting national security. Photo: Reuters

China details operating areas for foreign NGOs under new law

China’s Ministry of Public Security unveiled a list of areas where foreign non-governmental organizations (NGO) are allowed to operate, ahead of the enforcement of a new law.

These areas range from legal advice to equality of the sexes, Reuters reports.

President Xi Jinping’s administration has made sweeping changes to the law in the name of boosting national security, including a cyber security law passed last month and another targeting foreign NGOs, slated for Jan. 1.

But some foreign organizations including social and environmental advocacy groups fear they could inadvertently break the broad new rules, with some even closing their operations to avoid such pitfalls.

Having on Tuesday released a list of government bodies that will act as a go-between with the ministry and foreign NGOs, the ministry has now issued further clarification giving the activities they will be allowed to carry out under the law.

Potentially sensitive legal services such as legal aid and legal education will be allowed, but NGOs will have to be supervised by the Justice Ministry, the Public Security Ministry said.

China generally looks askance at what it views as any foreign interference in its legal system, which is controlled by the ruling Communist Party, though governments such the British one have been involved in helping with legal reforms.

China’s leadership has overseen a sweeping crackdown on activists since Xi took power, including detaining or imprisoning dozens of rights lawyers in what the government says is the targeting of criminal acts.

Others areas in the list are generally less politically touchy, including climate change and wetland conservation.

The list makes no mention of the term “human rights”.

In November, the government twice issued clarification statements, saying there would be no grace period for NGOs to meet the new law, later adding that groups must give details of how they are funded.

There remains a spectrum of concern among NGOs, from those who act in areas considered relatively benign by the authorities, such as education and health, to those who work in sensitive areas, including legal reform and rights issues.

Chinese officials defend the foreign NGO law, saying it would only be used to punish a handful of law-breaking organizations.

Rights groups say the law’s use of an ambiguous ban on activities that threaten national security or endanger social stability could be used to target groups doing work disliked by the Communist Party.

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CG

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