IBAHRI urges review of China’s new law for foreign NGOs

China’s new law for foreign NGOs, enacted on 28 April 2016, is of grave concern to the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute. The Law on the Administration of Activities by Foreign Non-Governmental Organizations within the People’s Republic of China (the ‘Foreign NGO Law’) introduces onerous regulatory requirements on overseas not-for-profit organisations wishing to operate in China and brings their activities under the control of the Ministry of Public Security.

The Foreign NGO Law, which will come into force on 1 January 2017, requires foreign NGOs to be sponsored by a government-approved Chinese partner and to register with the Public Security Bureau. The law significantly increases police control over NGO activity, granting the police extensive powers to enter the domestic premises of overseas-based NGOs, seize documents and scrutinise finances without judicial oversight. It further empowers the police to detain office personnel for up to 15 days if activities are perceived to threaten national security or national interests.

IBAHRI Co-Chair, Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, observed: ‘Civil society is an essential component of a rule of law state. During China’s 2013 Universal Periodic Review, China commendably accepted recommendations to create an environment free from hindrance for national and international civil society organisations. By introducing severe restrictions on civil society activity, the Foreign NGO Law represents a regressive step in China’s commitment to the rule of law and risks denying China the benefit of international partnerships that can greatly facilitate the advancement of human rights and the rule of law. Therefore, we urge China to establish a regulatory framework that does not unduly restrict civil society activity and upholds the country’s international human rights obligations.’

Mark Ellis, International Bar Association Executive Director, added: ‘It is of grave concern that the Foreign NGO Law grants excessive administrative supervision over legitimate civil society activity and disrupts vital funding channels for domestic NGOs. This undermines China’s international legal obligations to protect and promote freedom of association and peaceful assembly and to establish a safe and enabling environment for civil society.’


Notes to the Editor

  1. China underwent its second Universal Periodic Review (UPR) on 22 October 2013 at the 25th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, where it accepted six UPR recommendations to strengthen engagement with civil society. To read the Report of the Working Group, adopted by the Human Rights Council, click here.
  2. The IBAHRI has submitted numerous public and private statements expressing concern at the hindrance to and undue interference in the work of human rights lawyers and activists in China. Read the IBAHRI’s recent open letter to His Excellency Mr Xi Jinping, President of the People’s Republic of China, here.
  3. The International Bar Association (IBA), established in 1947, is the world’s leading organisation of international legal practitioners, bar associations and law societies. Through its global membership of individual lawyers, law firms, bar associations and law societies, it influences the development of international law reform and shapes the future of the legal profession throughout the world.

    The IBA’s administrative office is in London, United Kingdom. Regional offices are located in: São Paulo, Brazil; Seoul, South Korea; and Washington, DC, United States, while the International Bar Association’s International Criminal Court and International Criminal Law Programme (ICC & ICL) is managed from an office in The Hague, the Netherlands.

    The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) works to promote, protect and enforce human rights under a just rule of law, and to preserve the independence of the judiciary and the legal profession worldwide.
  4. Twitter handle: @IBAHRI


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