Draft law outlines requirements for overseas NGOs

Legislators are mulling a draft law that would set dos and don'ts for foreign non-governmental organizations in China.

The proposed law represents a big change to a draft that legislators looked at during a first reading four months ago that banned NGOs or their representative offices in China from setting up branches in the country.

The draft that was given a second reading at the bimonthly meeting of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress on Thursday allows NGOs to open branches in the country with the permission of the State Council.

The change was made "in light of the Chinese government's positive attitude toward some international NGOs", an explanation text of the draft said.

"Foreign NGOs and their representative offices are not allowed to establish branches in China unless the State Council gives them special policies," the revised provision said.

The draft is not the final version of the proposed law. Under legislative procedures, the draft will be revised and taken to the third reading, followed by a vote of the Standing Committee of the NPC.

Once the draft law is approved, NGOs outside the Chinese mainland will have to register with and be approved by Chinese authorities if they want to set up representative offices on the mainland or temporarily operate on the mainland.

The draft law allows foreign NGOs to hold temporary events in China, requiring them to apply to relevant departments or commission their Chinese partners to apply for permission.

Dong Zhongyuan, a member of the Standing Committee of the NPC, said the draft law should add some details to the items concerning approval procedures, such as setting a time limit and requiring authorities to give reasons if they reject an application.

Yang Wei, a deputy to the NPC, said some provisions of the draft law are not clear and should be explained in a more precise way. He suggested that the punishment for NGOs that provide false application materials should be specified.

A draft law on national security was also discussed among lawmakers on Thursday. The law was tabled for its second reading before the Standing Committee of the NPC.

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