China: Scrap Foreign NGO law aimed at choking civil society

The Chinese government must scrap a new law aimed at further smothering civil society, Amnesty International said today.

The law presents a very real threat to the legitimate work of independent NGOs and should be immediately revoked.

William Nee, China Researcher at Amnesty International

China’s National People’s Congress adopted on 28 April a fundamentally flawed law governing Foreign NGOs and their domestic partners. The new law will have severe consequences for freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association, which are already sharply curtailed under existing laws and policies.

“The authorities – particularly the police – will have virtually unchecked powers to target NGOs, restrict their activities, and ultimately stifle civil society,” said William Nee, China Researcher at Amnesty International. 

“The law presents a very real threat to the legitimate work of independent NGOs and should be immediately revoked.”

The law is the latest in a raft of legislation aimed at bolstering government power under the guise of national security and at the cost of human rights. A sweeping National Security Law, passed in July 2015, defines “national security” in such broad and vague terms that the authorities are essentially given carte blanche.

In December of last year, an Anti-Terrorism Law was passed with virtually no safeguards to prevent those who peacefully practise their religion or simply criticize government policies from being prosecuted on broad charges related to “terrorism” or “extremism”.

Later this year the authorities may also pass a Cyber Security Law. The most recent public draft also contained vague and imprecise terms relating to national security and “maintaining social order” that could be used to restrict freedom of expression even further.

In a June 2015 submission to China’s National People’s Congress Standing Committee’s Legislative Affairs Commission, Amnesty International highlighted major shortcomings in the draft Foreign Non-Governmental Organizations Management Law that would stifle civil society and breach China’s international human rights obligations.