No legal system: experts
Popular support for NGOs has taken off spectacularly in 2008, claimed the founder of China's first NGO academic research center at Tsinghua University in Beijing.
"For Chinese grass-roots NGOs," Wang Ming said, "the key to surviving and thriving … is to maintain and utilize a sound relationship with authority."
Successful dialogue with government officials could help NGOs avoid falling victim to tax issues, said Fu Tao, an NGO researcher based in Beijing.
Tax is a problem facing all NGOs that register as corporations, he said.
"Intentionally or unintentionally, it is an institutional trap," he said, "providing a basis for selective enforcement by the government."
It's true that many domestic NGOs have a hard job fund raising, said Fu, because any potential corporate sponsor rarely receives tax breaks for contributing to them.
Unless they are government-registered, the standard Chinese NGO will often struggle for help from Chinese society, he said.
Nonetheless, focusing on this private corporate versus government work unit registration issue misses a much more important, larger point, he believed.
"We should think about whether the existing system should open a space for advocacy organizations like Open Constitution Initiative and Yirenping, which on behalf of the public interest and disadvantaged people, try to push for social justice and rule of law by challenging people or government departments with vested interests.
"If it can't, even if all NGOs successfully register with civil affairs bureaus, a policy of selective enforcement will persist, just offering different excuses."
NGOs split into two types: charity-based and advocacy groups, he said.
"Our government has been providing more space for charity-based NGOs in recent years, as it realizes these NGOs can help resolve social conflicts and contradictions by redistributing wealth.
"But advocacy groups are still being treated standoffishly because they are regarded as troublemakers."
Standing off was a misguided approach in the long term, he argued.
"People's awareness of their civil rights is rising. There will be more and more people using existing laws or promoting law to protect civil rights. "
NGOs are newborn things to Chinese society. With the improvement of the legal system in China, regulations for NGOs will gradually be reformed to meet increasing public demand, a Beijing-based NGO researcher told the Global Times under condition of anonymity.
"Adapting to the current legal system is a necessity for NGOs to expand their role in the future, which will also grant more opportunities to contribute to the betterment of the legal system," he said.Source:Global Times