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May 2, 2017

German Political Foundations May Be Able to Register as NGOs in China

According to German media reports, China’s Ministry of Public Security has determined that five of Germany’s political foundations—Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, Heinrich Böll Foundation, Hanns Seidel Foundation, and Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung—will be permitted to pair with Professional Supervisory Units (PSUs) and operate in China as NGOs.

Germany’s political foundations are somewhat unusual in the international non-profit landscape. Affiliated with German political parties, the political foundations receive public funds apportioned according to their party’s representation in parliament. Traditional definitions of “non-governmental organizations” can be difficult to apply to these groups given their public funding and ties with German state and political entities, even though much of their programming resembles that of more conventional NGOs.

The German government had expressed concern over the ability of German political foundations to register as NGOs in China even before the Foreign NGO Law went into effect in January of this year. All five of the listed political foundations have recently been operating in China, with activities ranging from micro-credit programs for women in underdeveloped regions to seminars on labor law conflict resolution, and from talks on energy policy in Inner Mongolia to sustainable development in China and the Mekong. Not included on this list, however, was the Free Democratic Party’s Friedrich Naumann Foundation, which was expelled from China in 1996 and embroiled in further controversy in 2008 over allegations that it was part of a German foreign ministry “anti-Chinese Tibet campaign.”

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