BEIJING, May 4 (Greenpost) — Some people appear to have misunderstood China’s new law on overseas NGOs.
They seem to have failed to notice anything beyond the law’s restrictive provisions. News flash: There are few laws that only forbid, and this is not one of them.
When the new law takes effect in January, overseas NGOs will walk out of the shadow they have long stood in. Those with solid reasons to operate in China will have a legal identity, a clear code of conduct and protection of their rights and interests from the government and legal system. They will also be subject to supervision, just like their domestic counterparts are.
One issue that drew much concern is the involvement of the police in the registration and regulation processes.
China is hardly the only country in the world to place trust in law enforcement and, as lawmakers have repeatedly pointed out, the police have the resources and expertise to deal with foreigners. Rather than this being the “hostile setup” espoused by certain parties, it is a pragmatic arrangement to ensure an efficient and professional service.
The police have not been handed unrestricted power, and systems will be in place to assure accountability and, should they fail in their duty, suitable punishments.
When comparing previous drafts of the law, which went through three readings, it is clear that great effort has been made to develop a balanced and comprehensive law.
Gathering opinions from different parties including foreign NGOs that already operate in China, the top legislature made notable changes through every reading.
For instance, the adopted law removed a provision in the original draft that limited foreign NGO offices on the Chinese mainland to one, and deleted the five-year operational limit on representative offices. Restrictions on staff and volunteers were also lifted.
The draft had required a permit for NGOs that wanted to operate temporarily on the mainland. In the adopted law this has been changed to a compulsory report with the regulator 15 days before the program begins.
The Ministry of Public Security has promised to work out detailed protocols and publish this code of conduct as quickly as possible so that overseas NGOs will have enough time to prepare for registration.
China is still in the process of modernization, not only economically but also in governance. It is in its best interest to have a dynamic NGO sector, which features both domestic and foreign entities. From education, environmental protection to poverty relief, NGOs have an important part to play.
The law may not be perfect but it is a good beginning. It is likely that problems may emerge as it is enforced but, with the support and cooperation of NGOs, these problems can be properly addressed.
The law was drafted to give NGOs a more stable and positive environment in which to work in China. It will be a mutually beneficial relationship, better than letting the good and bad mix into the grey. Enditem