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April 9, 2018

A Round-up of Some Recent NGO-related News and Articles

Below is a summary of several Chinese government entities’ recent statements that relate to foreign NGOs, as well as a quick look at academic work related to Chinese civil society more broadly.

The National People’s Congress mentioned NGO issues at the recent annual “two meetings.” The Foreign NGO Law was mentioned, as it was last year, as part of a suite of national security legislation. This framing is notably different from how the State Council Information Office described the law in December’s white paper on Human Rights, which stated that the law was enacted “[t]o promote exchanges and cooperation involving overseas non-governmental organizations in China.”

The Ministry of Civil Affairs, which is the regulatory authority for domestic NGOs, has recently issued four lists of suspected illegal social organizations. Among these organizations are two types of groups (“offshore groups” and “fake groups”) which Ministry personnel said must register under the Foreign NGO Law. In this formulation, an “offshore group” (离岸社团) is an organization started by a Chinese citizen who registered the group as a non-profit outside of China in order to take advantage of laxer registration requirements, but that has still been conducting working inside mainland China. A “fake group” (山寨社团) is a subset of such offshore groups, but refers to organizations that have registered under the same or a very similar name as a legally-registered domestic NGO in China.

In line with similar efforts across China to raise awareness of the Foreign NGO Law and how to comply with it, the Shanghai Public Security Bureau Foreign NGO Management Office in February released a cartoon video with basic information about the law and registration and filing processes.

In China Policy Institute: Analysis, Peter J. Li describes the factors that allowed for China’s animal rights movement to grow, including a more relaxed political environment after reform and opening, increasing urbanization, and strong support from foreign NGOs. He writes, “China’s animal protection movement has received much assistance from international animal protection and conservation NGOs. The WWF was one of the first international NGOs setting foot on mainland China. . . The operation of international NGOs in China has offered their Chinese counterparts operating models of mature and professional organisations.” However, Li also sees challenges ahead for the animal rights movement, including a increasingly unfriendly policy environment for domestic NGOs.

Finally, two academic articles discuss the development of domestic civil society in China. “Advocacy in an Authoritarian State: How Grassroots Environmental NGOs Influence Local Governments in China” emphasizes the impact that NGOs and citizens can have on local-level policymaking. “The Hidden Gaps in Rural Development: Examining Peasant–NGO Relations through a Post-earthquake Recovery Project in Sichuan, China” instead focuses on civil society’s relationship with the community it is serving, particularly in rural areas of China.

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