Foreign NGO Registration Rules to Be Eased

Loosening of rules for foreign CSOs coming

A front-page headline in July 19th’s China Daily proclaims as follows: “Foreign NGO registration rules eased.” While something of an overstatement, it is nonetheless good news and the move it to be applauded.

At the current time only foreign foundations are permitted to register representative offices at the national or local level. Except in Yunnan Province, where foreign CSOs are permitted to be “recorded” (a procedure called bei’an), are other types of CSOs given a quasi-legal status. While they are not “full legal entities” in Chinese parlance, they are allowed to open foreign currency and RMB bank accounts, etc. Now these rules will be extended nation-wide, according to an announcement made in Yunnan by Wang Jianjun, the new director of the nongovernmental organizations management department in the Ministry of Civil Affairs (MCA). The new framework will allow them to be recorded in provincial level bureaus of civil affairs.

According to the newspaper, this status will give them an ID number, they will receive help with registration for tax exemption, residence permits for foreign employees, in addition to the banking privileges listed above. The head of the Yunnan bureau of civil affairs said at a conference held in Yunnan that such organizations “are no longer regarded as demons!” At present more than 100 international organizations are helping with Yunnan’s development.

Most of the CSOs working in Yunnan focus on health, education, and poverty alleviation, all needed in the province. Wang Zhenyao, head of the China Philanthropy Research Initiative (CPRI) at Beijing Normal University praised the Ministry for moving ahead with the reforms. Wang Ming, from Tsinghua University, also praised the changes, saving that other provinces can learn from Yunnan.

It is not entirely clear whether the new rules are effective immediately or whether they go into effect on January 1, 2014, at the same time as the other CSO “direct registration” rules are expected to do. For more see: more information about the conference at which the announcement was made see (Chinese).