China’s latest crackdown against foreign forces caused threat for NGO’s. Some of the most famous names in the nonprofit world may be forced to quit China this year.
A new law targeted at foreign NGOs, effective as of Jan. 1, requires such groups to submit themselves to greater government control if they want to continue working in China.
They must find government sponsors, register with the police, and submit annual reports on their financing, among other requirements. Any violations could result in punishment ranging from asset confiscation to deportation.
The crackdown on foreign NGOs is one of the many fronts in Chinese president Xi Jinping’s ongoing war against “foreign forces,” which Beijing claims are destabilizing the country and undermining China’s national interests. At best, foreign NGOs will try to navigate the red tape, adapt, and survive. At worst, groups working in such causes as criminal justice and HIV prevention may simply have to abandon China altogether, whether voluntarily or forcibly.
The new foreign NGO law is being implemented at a time “when there is arguably a rise in xenophobic attitudes on the part of the government, and increasing paranoia about the role of civil society that is not directly controlled by the Communist Party,” said William Nee, a China researcher with Amnesty International.
Released in its approved form in April, the “Law on Management of Domestic Activities of Overseas Non-governmental Organizations” is part of a string of legislation focusing on state security and enacted in recent years. Nonprofits working in sensitive fields such as human rights and the rule of law are the most likely targets, NGO workers and researchers say.
The new law also prohibits unregistered foreign groups from funding their local counterparts. That could effectively cut off the lifeline for many Chinese NGOs that can’t get support from domestic sources.