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October 29, 2019

How the Foreign NGO Law Is Affecting European NGOs

17 Case Studies Show the Range of Effects and Responses

The Asia Research Institute at the University of Nottingham recently published 17 case studies that help document the “intended and unintended consequences” of the Foreign NGO Law. These anonymized case studies are based on interviews conducted with leaders and employees of 24 organizations in Germany, the Netherlands, France, the United Kingdom, and Italy.

The China NGO Project has re-published parts of each of the case studies in our Analysis section. Further information about the project, as well as complete versions of each of the case studies, are available on Asia Research Institute’s project webpage.

The project’s “Key Takeaways” include:

  1. All European NGOs appreciate the legacy of often twenty or more years of fruitful, horizontal cooperation with their Chinese partners. From a European perspective there was a big break with this positive legacy during the past few years. This process started already before the implementation of the Law in January 2017. All of our interviewees perceive the law as a threat to fruitful, trustful and meaningful EU-China cooperation.
  2. The future of Europe – China civil society cooperation is now uncertain and open. European NGOs would very much prefer to stay in China and even expand cooperation but, if forced, are prepared to leave.
  3. Regardless of the current hardships the majority of European NGOs currently active in China are still willing to offer what could be termed a ‘challenging’ gift of future cooperation. The challenge is double: First of all, they believe, to survive in a meaningful way, European-Chinese friendship must mature from acquaintance to true friend. Secondly, they challenge the framework conditions created by the new law and strongly recommend that China reconsiders the institutional framework. To flourish, fruitful and meaningful civil society cooperation needs a brotherly spirit of reciprocity within horizontal, trustful relations and enough space for autonomous decisions. Without sufficient breathing space EU-China civil society cooperation will first degenerate and then be a thing of the past.

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