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NGOs in Guangzhou prepare for more leeway under regulations

By Li Wenfang (China Daily)

10:46, November 25, 2011

GUANGZHOU - Starting on Jan 1 next year, many non-governmental organizations (NGO) will be able to register without a government sponsor in Guangzhou, Guangdong province.

Eight kinds of NGOs, including business associations and public welfare service organizations, will also experience streamlined procedures and quicker NGO registrations, said a notice from Guangzhou's civil affairs bureau.

The notice also said that more than one business association will be allowed in each sector, and people from outside the city with local business registrations, including from Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan, will be allowed into local associations.

The move is an important step in NGO registration reform across the country, said Tang Guoping, director of the NGO management office under the Guangzhou civil affairs bureau.

Later in the year, starting July 1, NGOs throughout Guangdong province will be able to register directly with civil affairs authorities, according to the province's draft plan.

The draft plan sets a goal of having more than 50,000 NGOs in Guangdong by 2015, or a 10 percent annual increase.

The draft eliminates strict administrative management and excessive monopolies in business sectors - two major obstacles in the development of NGOs - said Tang Hao, an associate professor with the school of politics and administration, South China Normal University.

"If it is well implemented, the draft may become an important milestone in the social construction and development of Guangdong, and the development of NGOs brings about important changes in social management, government administration, and civil culture and life," Tang said.

The efforts in Guangdong are a first test for the country, said Deng Guosheng, director of the non-governmental organization research center at Tsinghua University.

A lower threshold could lead to there being more public welfare organizations, Deng said, stressing that NGOs can only survive with power and capital transferred from the government.

"I used to work with some nonprofit organizations and foundations," said Zhang Qian, a member of the Guangzhou Xiehe Social Work Service Center.

"When these non-governmental grassroots organizations intended to do something for the public, they needed to resort to an administrative body to register, which involved a lot of complex interests and affected the service quality. It paid to gain the trust of the public."

"The new rules will make it easier to set up NGOs and could lead to many more NGOs. The government will have more choices in cooperation and the public will have more and better services," Zhang said.

The limitation of one association in one sector has created monopolies, and competition will prompt associations to improve their services, said Liu Runhua, deputy director of the provincial social work committee.

However, too many associations in one business sector could hurt the representation of the sector, said Deng.

He Dan and Tan Xuezhen contributed to this story.

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