Sunday, March 20, 2016

China's Charity Law Passes, Finally! (Civil Society 2, National Security 2 Halftime)

After more than 10 years in legislative limbo, the Charity Law of the People’s Republic of China was finally passed on March 16 at the 4th full session of the 12th National People’s Congress (NPC) with 2636 yes votes, 131 no votes, and 83 abstentions. The law will go into force on September 1, 2016. The Charity Law seeks to promote the cause of charity/philanthropy in China by clarifying the scope of charitable activities and regulating the establishment and operation of charitable organizations and the sources and uses of charitable property and services. For more about this law, see the analysis I wrote in this blog back in November when the second draft had come out for public comments.

Using my admittedly less-than-scientific categories, we could count the Charity Law, which is generally viewed positively by those in the Chinese nonprofit sector, as the second piece of legislation over the last year that was the product of significant input from those in the sector. The other piece of legislation was the Anti-Domestic Violence Law that was approved by the NPC Standing Committee last December. Of course, the Overseas NGO Law also concerns civil society, but I put it in the national security camp for now because that law had no input from the NGO sector and is widely viewed as controlling rather than enabling. There's still a chance the next draft of the Overseas NGO Law incorporate suggestions from NGOs and end up being very different and more enabling. If so, there's a chance I may change my mind and put it in the civil society camp.

Now if we're keeping score and treating the legislative process as a game (which doesn't mean I don't think we shouldn't take these laws seriously), then the civil society-related laws matches the number of national security-related laws that have come out over the same period of time (see Tables 1 and 2 below). We're still waiting for two other pieces of national security-related legislation - the Overseas NGO Management Law and the Cybersecurity Law - so if they are passed in close to their current form, then national security will come out on top in terms of the number of laws passed. Stay tuned.

Table 1: Timetable of national security-related NPC legislation

1st reading
2nd reading
3rd reading
Counterterrorism Law
November 3, 2014
(public comments)
March, 2015
Dec 24, 2015
National Security Law
December 2014 (internal)
May 7, 2015 (public comments)
July 1, 2015
July 1, 2015
Overseas NGO Management Law
December 22, 2014
May 5, 2015 (public comments)
Cybersecurity Law
July 6, 2015 (public comment)

Table 2: Timetable of other civil society-related NPC legislation

1st reading
2nd reading
3rd reading
Anti-Domestic Violence Law
November 25, 2014 (State Council, public comments)
August 2015 (NPC, public comments)

October 2015
December 27, 2015
Charity Law
October 2015 (public comments)
December 2015
 March 2016
 March 16, 2016

I'll be posting more about the Charity Law in the coming weeks. One thing to note is that the law that passed went through more changes in the third reading and so will be somewhat different from the second draft that was made available last October for public comments. According to China Development Brief's (CDB) summary of a New China News Agency article about the law, as a result of the 4000 comments made concerning the second draft, 110 changes were made to the second Charity Law draft, of which 38 were substantial changes. We'll need to see the text of the law to see how different the final version is from the second draft. CDB says it will have an English translation of the Charity Law by the beginning of April.

Below are some news items concerning the discussion of the draft law during the NPC session:

Charity Law draft limits public fundraising foundations’ management fee to 10% of expenditures
Clarifications provided regarding the Third Draft of the Charity Law
The Draft of the Charity Law specifies regulations concerning fundraising activities 

Josh Chin also has this piece - The Good - and Bad - About China's Charity Law - on the Wall Street Journal's blog.

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