Sounding off on the proposed INGO law in China

An elderly woman in the Malong county of Yunnan province in China receives relief materials from Oxfam. International nongovernmental organizations are concerned over proposed legal measures in the country. Photo by: Oxfam Hong Kong / CC BY-NC-ND 

Today marks the deadline for public comment to the proposed legal measure governing foreign nongovernmental organizations operating in China. Not surprisingly, affected groups, already struggling to navigate the country’s political landscape, have raised concerns.

The new law calls on foreign NGOs operating in China to uphold the country’s national unity, security, interests and customs. To some experts, this suggests that the government is wary of these organizations’ efforts that might introduce and promote foreign values to their beneficiaries, noted Devex reporter Lean Alfred Santos in an in-depth feature.

The biggest concerns for international NGOs in China include the law’s vague definition of an “overseas NGO,” lack of clarity on the sectors they can work in, and the additional procedures for registration and acquiring legal recognition.

Devex readers expressed varying opinions on the issue.

NGOs are meant to perform humanitarian work or build local capacity, so if they engage in subversive activities, they should be restrained, according to reader Amin Bardai.

Another reader noted the shift in development terrain, one that favors social enterprises over NGOs.

“While one country after another starts cracking down on NGOs, for reasons genuine or perceived, rules are being relaxed for the facilitation of social entrepreneurship,” Ram Mony wrote. “There is in addition a feeling that many or most NGOs are mostly nonprofit and therefore dependent on outside aid to survive, whereas social entrepreneurs are not: the latter need to have in place sustainable business plans to generate revenue or attract [venture capital or social venture capital] funds.”

Reader John Lowrie pointed out that Cambodia is resurrecting its proposed NGO law that also invokes national security as basis for new restrictions. He noted that Chinese aid to Cambodia has “vastly increased” in recent years, while Western donor support has reduced. It seems, he added, that the two countries “want to reinforce central control.”

Pedro Freire had a similar view.

Freire wrote: “It's rather obvious what the Chinese Government wants … to maintain an image of a united, unpolluted China, where everybody is happy under the existing rule, including the Tibetans. (Un)Fortunately that isn't possible as globalization deepens its grasp and won't be turned back. But they will try to control it anyway to use what suits them and block everything else. In the end it's the people who stand to lose, as change is slowed down and the energy is accumulated, increasing the potential of future quakes.”

What’s your take on the proposed INGO law in China? Add your voice by leaving a comment below.

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About the author

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    Ma. Eliza Villarino

    Currently based in New York City, Eliza is a veteran journalist focused on covering the most pressing issues and latest innovations in global health, humanitarian aid, sustainability and development. A member of Mensa, Eliza has earned a master's degree in public affairs and bachelor's degree in political science from the University of the Philippines.

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