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November 25, 2019

Chinese Government Says it Has ‘Punished’ U.S. NGO under the Foreign NGO Law

According to China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), Beijing police recently took disciplinary action against the U.S.-based NGO Asia Catalyst, for what a Chinese government spokesperson described as a violation of China’s Foreign NGO Law. While this represents the first case in which Chinese authorities have publicly and formally announced that a foreign NGO received punishment under the Foreign NGO Law, it is not the first case in which authorities have taken disciplinary measures under the auspices of the law. In early 2019, authorities in Guangdong province administratively detained the head of a Hong Kong-based NGO under the Foreign NGO Law, but this case came to light via the Hong Kong press, and The China NGO Project did not see evidence that P.R.C. authorities engaged with the case publicly. In December 2018, an MFA spokesperson initially brought up the Foreign NGO law when discussing the detention of Canadian Michael Kovrig, but later described Kovrig as having “endangered national security” and did not mention the Foreign NGO Law again.

At the MFA’s November 25 press conference, spokesperson Geng Shuang, responding to a question about the incident, confirmed that public security officials had investigated Asia Catalyst’s activities in March 2018 and had punished the group and its employees for “violating relevant provisions” of the Foreign NGO Law. Geng did not provide any further information about the activities in question nor what punishments were levied. Asia Catalyst declined to comment.

It is not clear which press organization raised the question at the press conference. The China NGO Project did not find any information online suggesting that this incident was widely known before the press conference.

The China NGO Project reported in 2018 that a temporary activity, filed by Asia Catalyst, appeared in, and then disappeared from, the Ministry of Public Security’s temporary activity database. This activity, which Asia Catalyst did not actually end up implementing, was to have taken place from July 2018 to March 2019—after the violation described by the Foreign Ministry.

Below is The China NGO Project’s translation of the relevant MFA press conference question and answer, followed by the original Chinese transcript released by the MFA.

Q: It is understood that the Beijing Public Security Bureau has recently investigated and disciplined the U.S.-based NGO Asia Catalyst for carrying out programs and activities in China. Can you confirm this?

A: You are quite well informed. According to public security officials, Asia Catalyst has not legally registered or filed to carry out programs or activities in China and is suspected of violating relevant provisions of the Law of the People’s Republic of China on Administration of Activities of Overseas Nongovernmental Organizations in the Mainland of China [Foreign NGO Law] in March 2018. With the facts clear and the evidence undeniable, Beijing public security organs recently publicly punished the NGO as well as relevant personnel in accordance with the Foreign NGO Law, the Law of the People’s Republic of China on Administrative Penalty, and the Provisions on the Procedures for Handling Administrative Cases by Public Security Organs.

I want to emphasize here that China has always welcomed foreign NGOs to come to China for friendly exchanges and cooperation. As long as foreign NGOs comply with Chinese laws and regulations, we are willing to facilitate such activities in China. At the same time, we hope that foreign NGOs will not engage in illegal activity in China. As for those organizations that engage in illegal activities and endanger China’s national security, the Chinese government will resolutely handle them according to the law.




Correction: This post has been updated to add a missing word from the English translation of the MFA transcript. The text now includes the word “publicly” in the phrase, “. . . Beijing public security organs recently publicly punished the NGO . . .”

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