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NGOs in China

Chinese lawyers to help foreign NGOs navigate controversial new law

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 04 January, 2017, 9:03am
UPDATED : Monday, 12 June, 2017, 1:00pm

Thirty-six Chinese lawyers have offered to advise foreign non-governmental organisations after a controversial law came into effect on January 1.

The lawyers, mostly from Beijing, Shanghai and Guangdong, said they would form a foreign NGO legal services group to advise the foreign organisations, their local units or individuals who operate on their behalf in more 20 sectors.

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The new Law on Domestic Activities of Overseas Non-governmental Organisations gives police huge powers, including financial scrutiny, over nearly 10,000 foreign NGOs.

“The lawyers’ consultation body was not set up to fight the authorities but to provide legal assistance to foreign NGOs so that they will not become targets of crackdowns,” said Guangxi-based lawyer Yu Pinjian.

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The law stipulates that, unlike their local counterparts, all foreign NGOs must register with and obtain approvals from the police rather than with the Ministry of Civil Affairs. Foreign NGOs involved in temporary projects must seek approval from and register with police as well.

The law bans foreign NGOs from “supporting or orchestrating illegal activities in China”, including activities harming national and ethnic unity, security and the “national, social and public interests”.