World

China proposes revisions to controversial draft NGO law

A security officer stands guard as delegates leave after the third plenary session of the National People's Congress (NPC) at the Great Hall of the People, in Beijing, China, March 13, 2016. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-hoon
A security officer stands guard as delegates leave after the third plenary session of the National People’s Congress (NPC) at the Great Hall of the People, in Beijing, China, March 13, 2016. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-hoon

BEIJING (Reuters) – China is set to pass a law governing foreign non-government organisations, after state media said legislators recommended it be put to a vote following adjustments to some provisions criticised by foreign governments and civil society groups.

The proposed law is part of a raft of legislation, including China’s counterterrorism law and a draft cyber security law, put forward amid a renewed crackdown on dissent by President Xi Jinping’s administration.

The United States, Canada and the European Union have urged China to revise the draft NGO law, earlier versions of which gave broad latitude to the police to regulate activities and funding of overseas groups operating in China.

Critics had argued it was too vague and could severely limit the operations of social and environmental advocacy groups, besides business organisations and academia.

In a sign of its likely adoption, the law committee of China’s largely rubber stamp National People’s Congress (NPC) recommended that the bill be voted on during a regular session of the NPC Standing Committee, which meets from Monday to Thursday, the official Xinhua news agency said.

“Exchanges and cooperation between Chinese and overseas colleges, hospitals and research institutes of science and engineering will follow existing regulations,” the official Xinhua news agency said.

The latest version of the draft also removes a limit of only one office for NGOs in mainland China and “deletes the five-year limit on operations of representative offices in China”, Xinhua said.

“They will be allowed to open offices according to operational needs, but the number and locations must be approved by the regulatory authority,” it added.

Tougher rules had been imposed on sources of funds, expenses and revenues, it said.

“Overseas NGOs, which engage in illegal activities, including those to subvert the state and split the nation, will be blacklisted and banned from operating in the mainland.”

The most recent version of the draft law had not yet been released and the status of its controversial provisions was not clear.

China has arrested scores of human rights lawyers across the country and tightened control over almost every aspect of civil society since 2012, citing the need to shore up national security and stability.

China consistently rejects any criticism of its human rights record, saying it adheres to the rule of law.

(Reporting by Michael Martina; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

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