China says supports development of foreign NGOs

China says supports development of foreign NGOs
PHOTO: AFP

BEIJING - China's Minister of Public Security has assured foreign non-government organisations operating in the country that China supports their activities amid fears that a controversial new law governing NGOs could hamper the development of civil society.

Western governments and foreign non-profit groups are pressuring China to revise the proposed law, which they say would severely restrict the activities of NGOs, business groups and universities.

The draft law, which was opened for public consultation in May, requires foreign non-profits to find an official sponsor, typically a government-backed agency, and gives broad latitude to the police to regulate activities and funding.

Guo Shengkun, the Minister for Public Security, said: "The Chinese government highly appreciates the positive role played by foreign NGOs." His comments appeared in a statement posted on the Ministry of Public Security's website on Sunday.

"China welcomes and supports foreign NGOs carrying out friendly exchanges and co-operation," Guo said at a meeting with China's foreign ministry, civil affairs ministry and several international NGOs on Saturday.

But the statement also said Guo "hopes that foreign NGOs continue to be concerned about and interested in China's development and have an in-depth understanding of China's national conditions, conscientiously abide by Chinese laws and fully show their advantages in terms of ideas, talent, management, funding and so on".

China often says its "national conditions" are unique when it rejects criticism from the West. Beijing has used that phrase to explain its stance on issues as varied as its regulation of the Internet and its setting of greenhouse gas emissions targets.

Guo said the law governing foreign NGOs is necessary to"protect the legitimate rights and interests of foreign NGOs in China".

Under the law, the term "foreign NGO" is loosely defined and could apply to an American professor planning to speak at a Chinese university, foreign trade associations, and overseas dance troupes performing in China, Chinese legal experts have said.

The law comes amid a crackdown on dissent by President Xi Jinping's administration. His government has detained and jailed activists and blamed "foreign forces", including foreign NGOs, for the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong last year.

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