Dec 16, 2014 05:52 PM

Charity Law Proposal Urges Relaxation of Foreign NGO Rules

(Beijing) – Academics from Tsinghua and Peking universities have called upon lawmakers to give legal status to overseas charity organizations operating in China in a recommendation for enacting a charity law.

In the proposed Charity Law, academics have laid out rules clarifying registration procedures for foreign NGOs and their legal status, rights and liabilities in China, according to Jin Jinping, director of Center for NPOs Law of Peking University.

Jin said that their legislative proposal in the chapter relating to overseas NGOs is "moderate and neutral."

However the proposed law stops short of touching upon another sensitive issue – the legal status of charity projects which receive funding from overseas institutions and operate under their guidelines.

Wang Ming, director of Tsinghua University's NGO Research Institute, said that their proposal is to encourage overseas charity groups to operate in China via a local office in accordance with the law.

Authorities have been wary of political activism from the presence of foreign NGOs in China and charitable work sponsored by foreign institutions. For years, foreign NGOs with operations in China have been denied NGO status.

Instead, most register as a private business, which subjects them to heavy taxes. Charity projects backed by foreign donors have been under particularly close watch by authorities over concerns that the organizations support interests hostile to the government.

In November, regulators in Guangzhou were forced to revise a controversial clause in a city-level NGO regulation amid public uproar.

Under the regulation, charity organizations operating in the southern city would have their licenses revoked if they found to be predominately funded from overseas, or if they are in fact overseen by foreign institutions.

Jin, the Peking University professor, said that inasmuch as social responsibility goes beyond national borders, overseas charity organizations should be able to operate in China the same way as Chinese charity groups can go abroad.

She said that if China wants to play bigger role in the international community, it must open up the non-profit sector as it has done in other areas.

"We can't look at overseas charity organizations through colored glasses," she said.

It was only until 2005 when the Ministry of Civil Affairs called on lawmakers to enact a charity law in China. It took another eight years before the Standing Committee of the 12th National People's Congress had a plan to introduce the Charity Law without setting out a timeframe.

The jointly proposed charity law from academics at Tsinghua and Peking universities is among seven legislative recommendations going before lawmakers for consideration. The proposal will be made available for public view from December 21.

Academics said the law should also allow charitable foundations to raise funds from the public in accordance with their capabilities and integrity not because they are favored by regulators.

Under current regulations, only 1,500 of the 4,100 foundations have the authorization to raise funds from the public.

The academic version of the Charity Law also proposes stricter oversight of assets at charity organizations which is susceptible to misuse due to a lack of transparency.

(Rewritten by Li Rongde)

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