Law chokes Chinese NGOs' foreign funding
With a new regulation requiring Chinese NGOs to obtain notarized agreements for foreign funding, the government has seized greater control over outside support.
Sitting in a bare office behind an anonymous steel door, Yu Fangqiang feels under siege.Skip to next paragraph
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His small nongovernmental organization, Yirenping, has enjoyed remarkable success in helping HIV and hepatitis B sufferers fight discrimination by Chinese employers, universities, and government departments. For this challenge to the authorities, though, the group is paying a high price.
Last year, police raided Yirenping’s Beijing office and confiscated all its publicity material and legal aid brochures – hence the empty bookshelves. In March, officials subjected their accounts to an unusually prolonged investigation and warned them of more to come.
Now, new government regulations are starving Yirenping and other controversial NGOs of funds.
“I am very worried about our future,” says Mr. Yu, Yirenping’s chief coordinator. “I’m afraid we may have to close.”
NGOs tied up
He is not alone. At a recent meeting of around two dozen NGOs here, none reported having been able to comply with regulations announced on March 1 by the State Administration for Foreign Exchange (SAFE) requiring legally notarized grant agreements before they can receive money from foreign foundations.
The 14 activists working for Yirenping are keeping its three offices open “by borrowing money from friends on a personal basis,” says Yu. “But we can’t go on doing that forever.”
The SAFE circular said the new rules were “for the purpose of … facilitating the receipt and payment of donations in foreign exchange.” So far they have had the opposite effect, and some observers suspect political motivations behind the regulations.
“They want to keep a closer watch on NGOs’ foreign relations … and get better control over the NGO sector and civil society,” says Sarah Davis, head of Asia Catalyst, a New York-based organization that supports Chinese NGOs.