DIALOGE UNIT 7: A Song of Ice and Fire: the Influence of Foreign NGO Law and Charity Law on NGOs in China


The Beijing Zhongze Women’s Legal Counseling and Service Centre was shut down by the government in February 2016. Zhongze, a leading women’s legal aid centre, founded after the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995, was just one of the foreign-sponsored organisations that suddenly became more “sensitive” after China began drafting the “Foreign NGO Law” last year. The “Foreign NGO Law” passed in April 2016 requires foreign-related NGOs to register at the Public Security Department instead of the Civil Administration Department. It extends already burdensome registration requirements and also places pressure on Chinese local NGOs that are co-operating with foreign partners. Interestingly, almost at the same time, another law called “Charity Law” was also drafted and passed showing more support and trust from the government towards local service-oriented NGOs. Thanks to this new law, the registration and operation of some of the local NGOs will be easier than before.

These two laws indicate that control from the Chinese state has advanced to a new level, where “graduated control” does not remain on the policy level, but is legitimised and reinforced by legislation. Through these two laws, the Chinese state intends to further encourage the beneficial aspects of civil society, for example, the function of service delivery and discourage its perceived dangerous aspects.

The Chinese state has drafted these two laws in a sophisticated manner that raised the threshold of potential opposition from the public and the NGO activists. China’s “Foreign NGO Law” (境外非政府组织管理法) has pushed the foreign sponsored NGOs to the secular side. “Charity Law” (慈善法), in contrast, categorised the local service-oriented NGOs to the sacred side and thus clarifies the difference between domestic and foreign NGOs.

Hence, this Dialogue Unit aims at determining how the situation of foreign NGOs and local NGOs has changed during the drafting and implementation of these two laws. To be specific:
How have their relations with the government changed?
How have their relations with the public changed?
What specific strategies have they had to adopt to survive in the new era?

Mag. Dr. Alfred Gerstl, MIR
Ing. Mgr. Richard Turcsányi, Ph.D.
Mgr. Runya Qiaoan, Ph.D.


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