China’s public security chief tries to ease fears about draft law for foreign NGOs

Minister vows to help foreign groups and applauds their development role

By Daniel Ren

South China Morning Post

The mainland’s public security chief has sought to ease fears about a proposed new law governing foreign NGOs, pledging to help the non-governmental organisations operate.

Minister of Public Security Guo Shengkun told representatives from a group of NGOs in Shanghai on Friday that the authorities appreciated their contributions to the country’s social development.

Guo also said the mainland would learn from their professionalism to deepen cooperation with other countries in economics, science, education, culture, health care, sport, environmental protection and charity, Xinhua reported yesterday.

“NGOs have increasingly become an important force in multilateral international affairs,” Xinhua quoted Guo as saying.

“They have played an important role in bolstering the economic and social development of various countries and helped to maintain global peace and stable growth.”

His remarks were seen as an attempt to soothe concerns about the proposed Foreign NGO Management Law.

The bill was finalised in early June and has been interpreted by some observers as a fresh sign that China will take a harsh stand on foreign NGOs by driving out many of those it believes to be a threat to national security. Under the draft law, the NGOs would be supervised by police and must not endanger national unity, security or ethnic unity.

Some legal specialists have said that a number of NGOs would not get approval to operate on the mainland if the law was implemented.

But Beijing has stressed that the rules are designed to provide a legal framework for NGOs operating in the country and to safeguard their interests.

“The Chinese government attaches great importance to the activities of foreign NGOs, as well the management of them and services for them,” Guo said. “The law is an important step to provide a legal framework to protect the legitimate interest of foreign NGOs.”

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