Foreign non-governmental organisations, including social and environmental advocacy groups, fear they could inadvertently break the broadly defined new rules that take effect in China next month, with some even closing down to avoid such pitfalls.
Chinese President Xi Jinping’s administration has made sweeping changes to Chinese law in the name of boosting national security, including a controversial cybersecurity law passed last month and another targeting foreign NGOs, set to come into force on 1st January 2017.
China says the NGO law, which grants broad powers to police to question NGO workers, monitor their finances and regulate their work, is necessary to regulate an unruly sector. and that only those operating illegally have anything to fear.
Western governments say the law, which was passed in April, treats groups as criminals and would severely limit their ability to operate in China.
Foreign NGO employees in China have told Reuters that many groups still do not know whether they will be able to register with the authorities in time, as key information about the process has not been published.
“There are many NGOs that wish to comply but feel unable to comply due to a lack of information,” says Lester Ross, a partner at WilmerHale Lawfirm in Beijing who advises such groups.
Faced with the prospect of inadvertently operating illegally, a number of groups are temporarily or permanently suspending their China operations, according to people in direct contact with the NGOs.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Thursday that the law was being introduced to “protect the legal rights of foreign NGOs working in China”, and directed groups to consult the most recently released government guidelines.
In November the government twice made clarification statements, saying there would be no grace period for NGOs to meet the new law,and later adding that groups must give details of how they are funded.
The founder of an education NGO, who asked not to be named, said the government told them they need not worry about the process.
“If you are working in areas that the government doesn’t like, then that’s exactly why the government is putting this law in place … “, the founder said.
- Pray for wisdom for NGO’s working in China in the light of these new laws. Pray especially for Christian organisations working there, who will almost certainly come under close scrutiny because of this law.
- Pray for protection for Christians working in China, as many are already facing pressure as they seek to bring the Gospel to this nation.
- Pray for Chinese believers, for protection over them and their families with increasing government persecution against them, and for a faith that stands strong.
- Pray for the Church in China, as it continues to grow at a vast rate. Pray for good training for leaders, for discipleships of new believers, and for the continued spread of the Gospel, especially into the more closed Western areas of China.
Ephesians 6 vs 12: “For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”