You are here

May 18, 2018

On ‘Human Rights’ and Foreign NGO Work in China

The term “human rights” has now been used three times in the information on the Ministry of Public Security (MPS) website about registered representative offices and filed temporary activities. The term is included in the titles for three temporary activities filed by the Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, which, perhaps unsurprisingly, also has the term “human rights” in its own Chinese name. The first of these activities started in May 2017, and the second two in April 2018.

Because of this, and as we recently noted, we’ve added “human rights” as a possible option for categorizing foreign NGOs’ work in China. We had previously not included “human rights” as a category because it is so broad and could easily subsume other categories of work, such as “gender” or “disabilities,” among others. Beyond that, there was the simple fact that almost no foreign NGOs had chosen to use the term “human rights” (人权, renquan) in describing the work of their representative offices or nature of their temporary activities. Going forward, we plan to only categorize as “human rights” those temporary activities and representative offices for which the term is specifically used in the information provided about them on the MPS website.

The three Raoul Wallenberg Institute temporary activities still only represent 0.4 percent of the total 702 temporary activity filings as of May 10, 2018. There is no mention of “human rights” in the information given on the Ministry of Public Security website about foreign NGOs’ representative offices.

Of course, it would be wrong to say that the Raoul Wallenberg Institute is the only foreign NGO registered in China that has work that touches on human rights. As noted above, human rights is a broad concept that relates to many other more specific types of work. It is likely, however, that groups are choosing not to use this term knowing how sensitive it can be in China.

This makes the Raoul Wallenberg Institute a rare exception in the overall landscape of foreign NGOs currently working under the foreign NGO law in China. By choosing which topics to include in our categorization scheme, we are highlighting not only the most common fields of work but also those that are the least common.

Support ChinaFile