April 24, 2015 / 3:39 AM / in 3 years

China draft law lets foreign NGOs open offices with government OK

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - The Chinese legislature has amended a draft law on international non-governmental organizations to give them special permission to set up branches in China, after an earlier draft sparked concerns of a crackdown.

The ruling Communist Party views NGOs, especially from abroad, with suspicion. Rights activists say the new law is part of a broader trend under President Xi Jinping’s administration to rein in dissent.

The draft was altered after “some localities and departments” pushed for change, noting there were already important science and technology-related international NGOs operating in China, the website of the National People’s Congress said.

It was “recommended that the provisions be more flexible”, said the notice, dated on Wednesday. The draft was discussed by the leadership of the rubber-stamp parliament on Thursday.

An earlier draft of the law, seen by Reuters in March, barred foreign NGOs from activities that violate “Chinese society’s moral customs” and from setting up branches in China under any circumstances.

The new draft allows foreign NGOs to open branch offices only with permission from the State Council, or China’s cabinet.

The draft must be given a third reading and a vote in the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, the China Daily newspaper reported on Friday.

Since last June, foreign NGOs have faced closer scrutiny. State security agents have interviewed them about funding, representatives said.

At least two foreigners working for NGOs have had to leave China because they were working on incorrect visas.

China says it has about 6,000 foreign NGOs. Many train lawyers, judges and Chinese NGOs, and push for a cleaner environment.

Reporting by John Ruwitch; Editing by Paul Tait

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