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August 29, 2018

Recent Developments Related to Domestic Chinese Organizations

As Shawn Shieh notes on his blog NGOs in China, the Ministry of Civil Affairs recently released draft regulations related to domestic “social organizations” in China. When completed and put into effect, they will form an updated regulatory framework for the registration and oversight of domestic non-governmental groups (a subset of which carry out charitable activities and are additionally governed by the Charity Law). The draft regulations are open for public comment through September 1; China Law Translate has provided an English translation as well.

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Beijing has issued local certification guidelines regarding social enterprises, according to China Development Brief. In addition to describing the resources available to certified organizations, certification requirements, and recommended fields of work, the document also defines a social enterprise as “an enterprise or organisation that prioritises the pursuit of the social good as a basic goal; continues to use market methods to produce/provide products and/or services; has a specific social issue and innovates with new public service provisions; and generates measurable social outcomes.”

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OutRight International recently published the results of an international survey looking at the ability of LGBTQ NGOs to register in various countries. In China, OutRight finds,

formal registration is possible and there is no express basis to deny registration of LGBTQ NGOs. However . . . “civil affairs authorities which are in charge of the registration of the NGOs tend to deny registration of LGBTI NGOs due to ‘ethical concerns,’ though without express legal basis.” Accordingly, certain LGBTIQ NGOs therefore operate (i.e. providing health services such as HIV prevention and treatment for key populations, including MSM) without formally revealing the true nature of their work or full extent of activities. Some LGBTI organizations have also chosen to register in other legal forms such as an enterprise or a company.

As we have written previously, domestic Chinese NGOs that are unable to get registered under the Charity Law are unable to serve as Chinese Partner Units for Foreign NGOs and are therefore cut off from such international partnerships and funding.

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Sixth Tone writes about why many domestic NGOs are now seeking funding from domestic sources: “Back in the ’90s, Chinese social organizations frequently relied on international NGOs to forge and fund future development plans. But nowadays, as Beijing increasingly clamps down on foreign-linked interest groups, domestic foundations — as well as existing large social organizations — are stepping into the breach.” This new approach, however, creates three unique capacity-building challenges: first, “because many foundations have absorbed the values and practices of their corporate donors,” they tend to fund projects with “quick, highly visible outcomes” and ignore longer-term sustainability concerns; second, newer NGOs often fail to find an innovative, replicable institutional models and therefore have less appeal to funders; and third, groups often fail to consult with locals when designing programs and solutions.

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