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Registered overseas NGOs increase on mainland

By LI LEI | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2020-07-28 07:12

The number of representative offices set up by overseas NGOs on the Chinese mainland has been steadily rising in recent years, reaching 524 by the end of 2019, according to the Blue Book of Philanthropy released on Sunday.

The NGOs held about 2,400 activities in 2019, in areas including commerce, education and the environment, said the report jointly released by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, the Social Sciences Academic Press and the China Lingshan Council for the Promotion of Philanthropy.

Figures from the Ministry of Public Security showed that there were 305 such offices on the Chinese mainland at the end of 2017, and 441 by the end of 2018.

The increase in the number of registered overseas NGO offices came after China introduced a law on the administration of such organizations in 2017, which experts said ended decades of very relaxed policies regarding their operations in the nation.

Jia Xijin, deputy head of the Institute of Philanthropy affiliated with Tsinghua University, said the 2017 law had made it "costly" in a legal sense to bypass the registration process.

"The law gives overseas NGOs legitimacy in China, while at the same time it regulates their activities," she said.

Before the rollout of the rules, thousands of overseas organizations were believed to have operations on the mainland, but only a handful of them acquired official recognition, Jia noted.

The blue book said that overseas NGOs are becoming an important driving force behind China's fast-growing charity sector.

Beijing was the most favored location for registration, with 165 such offices. Shanghai followed with 105, while there were 37 in Guangdong, 28 in Yunnan and 24 in Sichuan.

The tightened oversight of overseas NGOs comes as China is working to modernize its governance system, which entails the increased involvement of the nongovernmental sector, including overseas NGOs.

"Chinese policymakers should continue to reform to involve such players in governance," said Liu Huawen, deputy head of the Institute of International Law of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

But he argued that overseas NGOs, especially those from places where the political system is drastically different from that in China, should try to adapt to the local legal, political and cultural framework, in order to more effectively contribute to China's development.

Though most of the offices were of groups from the US, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and some other developed regions, a growing number of African NGOs had also opened offices on the mainland, according to the China Philanthropy Research Institute of Beijing Normal University.


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