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June 10, 2019

What Happens if a Foreign NGO Violates the Law?

What happens if public security decides a foreign NGO representative office is violating the law, or decides that a foreign NGO’s temporary activity is in contravention of the law? Can a foreign NGO face immediate expulsion from China?

The China NGO Project is only aware of one case where Chinese authorities formally invoked the Foreign NGO Law in the administrative punishment of a foreign NGO employee. In that case, local public security authorities picked up Hong Kong resident Cheung Kam Hung in January 2019 in Shenzhen, Guangdong province for violations of the Foreign NGO Law and administratively detained him for three days. As head of the Hong Kong-registered Rainbow China (彩虹中國), a non-profit focused on LGBT rights and HIV/AIDS prevention and support in China, Cheung had planned to travel on to Fujian province to conduct activities related to his NGO work; he had not filed for a temporary activity.

Articles 45 and 46 of the Foreign NGO Law list the sanctions that can be applied to foreign NGOs that are not compliant with the Law. These include the suspension of activities, the confiscation of illegal assets, and the withdrawal of registration certificates. Article 46 also states that in serious cases, “responsible personnel” can be detained for up to 10 days. As provided in Article 48, foreign NGOs that have had their representative office registration or temporary activities canceled must wait five years before re-applying to work in China. Foreign NGOs that violate Article 47 of the Foreign NGO Law (which, among other things, forbids foreign NGOs from obtaining state secrets, spreading rumors, disseminating information that harms public security, or funding illegal religious activities) will be placed on an “unwelcome list.” In terms of temporary activities, when the MPS finds such activities are in violation of Article 5 (which contains provisions similar to Article 47), they will notify the Chinese Partner Unit to stop the temporary activities.

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