Friday, April 29, 2016

The Overseas NGO Management Law is Now Official

The Overseas NGO Management Law was passed yesterday at the 12th session of the Standing Committee of the 12th National People’s Congress by a overwhelming margin and will go into effect January 1, 2017. The final version of the law bears a slightly different name from the previous drafts: Law on the Management of Overseas NGOs’ Activities in Mainland China  (境外非政府组织境内活动管理法). It’s quite a mouthful, and in the future I’ll refer to it simply as the Overseas NGO Law[i]. We're fortunate to now have two unofficial English-language translations of the law at China Development Brief's English-language website and ChinaLawTranslate.

Over the last two months, we have now seen two major national laws passed regulating the nonprofit, NGO sector in China: the Charity Law (慈善法) and the Overseas NGO Management Law (see Tables 1 and 2 below). We are also expecting revised regulations later this year for the registration and management of the three different types of social organizations (China’s official term for nonprofit, nongovernmental organizations).  This state of affairs is unprecedented. The last national law passed in this sector was the Public Welfare Donations Law (公益事业捐赠法) in 1999, nearly 17 years ago. Since then, we’ve seen very few regulations governing this sector come out. The most recent was the Foundation Management Regulations 基金会管理条例 issued in 2004. During this period of time, we’ve seen the rapid growth of both Chinese and overseas nonprofit, nongovernmental social organizations. Yet the large majority of these organizations have operated in a grey legal area due to the lack of regulation. In short, as many experts have noted, these two laws address a serious need to regulate what has largely been an unregulated sector. The real question is whether they will do so in a way that will foster the healthy development of both Chinese and overseas nonprofit, nongovernmental organizations in China. An answer to this question requires taking a close look at the two laws, and more importantly, seeing how they are implemented and enforced over the next few years.

I’ve already provided an analysis of the Charity Law in past posts, and will continue to update that analysis in future posts. In my next post, I’ll provide my analysis of the Overseas NGO Law, with an eye on how it will affect grassroots NGOs in China.

Table 1: Timetable of national security-related NPC legislation

1st reading
2nd reading
3rd reading
In Effect
Counterespionage Law

October 2014

November 1, 2014
November 1, 2014
Counterterrorism Law
November 3, 2014 (public comments)
March, 2015
December 2014
Dec 24, 2015
January 1, 2016
National Security Law
December 2014 (internal)
May 7, 2015 (public comments)
July 1, 2015
July 1, 2015
July 1, 2015
Overseas NGO Management Law
December 22, 2014 (internal)
May 5, 2015 (public comments)
 April 25-28, 2016
 April 28, 2016
January 1, 2017
Cybersecurity Law
July 6, 2015 (public comment)
November  6, 2016
June 1, 2017

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

1st reading
2nd reading
3rd reading
In Effect
Anti-Domestic Violence Law
November 25, 2014 (State Council, public comments)
August 2015 (NPC, public comments)
October 2015
December 27, 2015
March 1, 2016
Charity Law
October 2015 (public comments)
December 2015
 March 2016
 March 16, 2016
September 1, 2016

[i] Two minor points on the translation of the Chinese name. The Chinese term jingwai (境外) really means anything outside of mainland China, including Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan, so this is why I use the term “overseas” rather than “foreign”. Whether Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan are really foreign would get us into a endless debate over the international legal status of these territories/countries. The same goes for the term jingnei (境内) which really refers to mainland China.

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