30 Lawyers’ Proposal on Halting Foreign NGO Law
The text below is a proposal by 30 Chinese lawyers to the National People’s Congress for the abandonment of the proposed Foreign NGO Management Law. Read more on criticisms of the law during the public consultation period, which closes on June 4th, via CDT. Translated by Chang, and edited for clarity by CDT:
On May 5, 2015, the legal working committee of the NPC Standing Committee released the Foreign NGO Management Law (Second Reading Draft) (referred to below as “Draft”). This Draft is dedicated to “overseas” civil non-profit organizations, and requires a variety of administrative permissions on overseas civil non-profit organizations from establishment of representative organizations in China to exchanges, cooperation, activities, donations, and personnel recruitment. We discovered that this Draft, roughly written and hardly operable, lacks research on feasibility, necessity, and urgency. This draft mistakenly follows experiences of countries with multi-party systems like Russia. Therefore, we suggest that the NPC Standing Committee halt the adoption of the Foreign NGO Management Law, further deepen reform and opening, and promote instead of impeding civil exchange in and outside China. Our reasons are as follows:
On October 30, 2013, NPC Standing Committee published the legislation plan for the 12th NPC Standing Committee, including in total 68 legislative items of three major categories. Foreign NGO Management Law was not among the said items, which shows that legislative authorities did not deem it was pressing to adopt this legislation. However, at the 12th meeting of NPC Standing Committee held at the end of December 2014, this law was abruptly proposed by the State Council for deliberation. Legislation is a scientific and serious process. This law will have wide-ranging influence upon exchanges and economic and social development in and outside China, and should go through sufficient legislative planning and argumentation. Without long-term social discussion and theoretical foundation, it will be very difficult to enact a rigorous, regulatory, systematic, scientific, and effective law. The consequences will be too ghastly to contemplate if such law is adopted in such an arbitrary way.
2. Several provisions of this Draft violated the principle of necessity as provided in the Administrative Permission Law and relevant administrative laws.
Article 13 of the Administrative permission Law provides that “for the matters listed in Article 12 of this Law, which may be regulated through the following methods, administrative permissions are not required to be established:
- Those which can be decided by the citizens, legal persons, or other institutions themselves;
- Those which can be effectively regulated by the market competition mechanism;
- Those which may be subject to the self-discipline management of the trade organizations or intermediary institutions;
- Matters that can be solved by the administrative organs by means of post-supervision or through other administrative methods.”
International exchange and cooperation among civil non-profit organizations may be fully accomplished by self-discipline management and post-supervision by trade organizations. In fact, for more than 30 years of reform and opening-up in China, the post-supervision mode has always been proved effective. International exchange and cooperation among non-profit organizations are carried out in an orderly manner. “No additional permission unless necessary” is also a basic principle of authorization to administrative power. This law sets prohibitive provisions and approval as principles on international exchange and cooperation among civil non-profit organizations, with the exception of the freedom of private civil rights, and is against the necessity principle as provided in the Administrative permission Law and relevant administrative laws.
3. With unrefined and inexact text, poor operability, and an excessively large scope, this Draft is in violation of the fundamental national policy of “reform and opening-up” as well as the State Council’s reform spirit of “streamlining administration and power delegation.”
Article 6 of this Draft provides that “non-governmental organizations should conduct activities in China through their lawfully registered representative organizations. Unregistered representative organizations should first obtain temporary approval if they need to conduct activities.” The word “activity” sets a prior approval restriction on international exchange and cooperation of all civil non-profit organizations. However, as expressions such as “activity,” “project,” “approval,” and “consent” lack exact definitions, this Draft has too much flexibility and ambiguity. The law enforcement authorities will be granted too much discretion in its implementation, and the abuse of power by these authorities will occur on a frequent basis.
Premier Li Keqiang stressed on numerous occasions that streamlining administration and power delegation is, by way of simplifying matters subject to government approval, to release control as much as possible to market regulation and society at large. The government should leave alone all matters it could not intervene and manage all matters within its scope of responsibility. The expression “forbidden” appears 24 times in the full text of this Draft. Too many prohibitive provisions set administrative permission on all activities related to overseas non-profit organizations. It violates the fundamental national policy of reform and opening-up and the State Council’s spirit of “streamlining administration and power delegation,” and cannot demonstrate the self-confidence of a great and emergent nation.
4. This Draft has little contribution but much negative impact to its purpose of public security protection.
In the past, administration and legislation on civil organizations were generally led by civil affairs authorities, but the legislation of this law and its subsequent implementation are led by the public security authorities. The legislative purpose is evidently to protect “public security”. However, as overseas civil non-profit organizations that carry out activities within China, as well as Chinese organizations and individuals with overseas cooperation, have been suffering strict control and monitoring by public security, state security, and civil affairs authorities, their existence is already like treading upon eggs, still less affecting the “public security.”
It was reported that, among overseas civil non-profit organizations that conduct activities in China, half of them are business organizations such as Chambers of Commerce and industrial associations, and the other half are charity and public interest organizations. As is known to all, there are a small number of overseas civil organizations for rights protection that are active in China. They have very small scale, very limited space and liberty and very few activities, and are constantly investigated, searched, and administratively punished by authorities such as tax, industry and commerce, public security, and entry and exit administrations. They have already made endeavors to be flexible in order to exist. Therefore, it is obviously mis-stated exaggeration to compare the rights protection organizations active in and outside China to “Color Revolutions” and “Jasmine Revolutions.”
If adopted, this Draft will indeed result in impact on rights organizations with which the government is truly concerned, but the impact will be very limited for the reasons above. But it will form an unexpected impediment to a large number of overseas civil organizations in the fields of culture (art), education, medical care, poverty alleviation, science and economy (Chambers of Commerce, trade associations, etc). A lot of overseas civil organizations have compliance departments, and lawyers in these departments will recommend them canceling projects in China. This law obviously will cause unnecessary international dispute, and affect amicable relationships between nations. It is “penny wise and pound foolish.”
5. China is different from countries with multi-party systems that provide freedom of association such as Russia, Egypt and India, and should not be misled by the experience of such countries.
In recent years, Russia, Egypt, India, and some countries in Central Asia and North Africa have successively reinforced administration on non-governmental organizations. However, the situation of these countries is obviously different from that of China. These countries have multi-party systems, where freedom of association is valued in general, and civil organizations enjoy much liberty and power in conducting their activities. Even if these countries tighten administration and monitoring of civil organizations, their civil organizations still enjoy more liberty than those in China under one-party rule. To follow the administration and monitoring experiences of these countries will be no different from “master following apprentice.”
In conclusion, we consider that if the Foreign NGO Management Law (Second Reading Draft) is adopted in a hasty manner, it will be against the fundamental principle of administrative legislation, harm China’s open and self-confident image as a great nation, and create unnecessary international dispute. We hereby suggest halting this legislative process.
June 3rd, 2015
Proposed by: (Name, City) Zhao Hejun, Beijing; Zhu Xiaofei, Beijing; Sun Bin, Beijing; Song Yusheng, Beijing; Lin Qin, Guangzhou; Chen Ming, Guangzhou; Huang Sha, Shenzhen; Liu Yige, Tianjin; Liu Wei, Zhengzhou; Hu Yihua, Guangzhou; Li Ji, Luoyang; Jiang Pan, Shenzhen; Gao Shang, Beijing; Yang Mingkua, Kunming; Liu Shuqing, Jinan; Zhang Yujuan, Changsha; Ta La, Inner Mongolia; Yu Yin, Kunming; Yang Zheng, Zhengzhou; Wang Fengrong, Wuxi; Wang Yu, Beijing; Li Qin, Shanxi; Yang Weiguo, Hunan; Jiang Yuanmin, Shenzhen; Xie Jing, Chengdu; Zeng Lei, Beijing; Wang Rong, Shenzhen; Liu Yun, Urumqi; Fan Zhongxin, Hangzhou; Lin Qilei, Beijing
对民间组织的管理和立法，传统上由民政部门牵头，而该法的立法和今后该法的实施，却由公安部牵头，立法目的显然意在维护“公共安全”。但在中国境内展开工作的境外民间非营利组织及与境外有合作关系的境内机构和个人长期以来一直受到公安、国安、民政部门的严格监控，自身处境如履薄冰，更不可能影响到“公共安全”。 据报道，在华有活动的境外民间非营利组织中，大约一半为商会、行业协会等经营性组织，另一半则是慈善、公益类组织。而众所周知，在我国开展工作的权利型境内外民间组织数量极少、规模极小、活动空间极为有限，且不断被税务、工商、公安、出入境管理等部门调查、搜查、处罚，已经是以不同的变通方式勉强艰难存在。以“颜色革命”、“茉莉花革命”来类比在中国开展工作的境内外权利型组织，显然属于歪曲夸大。 该草案如果通过，对政府真正担心的权利型组织的影响确实有，但有限，而对大量文化（艺术）、教育、医疗、扶贫、科技、经济类（商会、行业协会）境外民间组织却形成了突如其来的阻碍，很多境外民间组织有合规性审查部门，该部门的律师会建议他们取消在中国的项目 。该法显然将制造不必要的国际矛盾，影响国家间友谊。属于“捡了芝麻、丢了西瓜”。
建议人： 赵合俊，北京 朱晓飞，北京 孙斌，北京 宋玉生，北京 林琦，广州 陈明，郑州 黄沙，深圳 刘伊戈，天津 刘伟，郑州 胡艺花，广州 李金，洛阳 江盼，深圳 高尚，北京 杨名跨，昆明 刘书庆，济南 张玉娟，湖南 塔拉，内蒙古 于音，昆明 杨诤，郑州 王凤荣，无锡 王宇，北京 李琴，陕西 杨为国，湖南 蒋援民，深圳 谢静，成都 曾磊，北京 王荣，深圳 刘云，乌鲁木齐 范忠信，杭州 蔺其磊， 北京