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State to tighten oversight of intl NGOs

By He Dan  (China Daily)

08:23, September 21, 2012

By amending existing law, China will set clear rules for international NGOs to register on the mainland and will strengthen supervision of their activities.

Li Liguo, minister of civil affairs, made the announcement at a news conference in Beijing on Thursday.

The Chinese government recognizes the contributions of international NGOs in China's economic and social development and praises their contributions in fields like culture, education, health and poverty alleviation, Li said.

However, he added, the public and Chinese government also find some international NGOs conducting illegal activities in the country.

"Therefore, improving the registration and management of international nongovernmental organizations' activities in China is imperative," he said.

Existing regulations have loopholes that stipulate rules only for foreign foundations setting up offices on the mainland, he stressed.

The specific do's and don'ts for international NGOs' activities on the mainland will be added as the government amends the three management regulations for three types of NGOs — foundations, non-enterprise work units and social associations, he said.

The media last year exposed a series of scandals in the philanthropic sector, some involving prestigious organizations such as the Red Cross Society of China and the China Charity Federation.

As the top supervisory organ for NGOs including charitable organizations, Jiang Li, vice-minister of civil affairs, pledged that the Ministry of Civil Affairs will step in and conduct further investigations and deliver proper punishment to illegal activities of NGOs whenever the media expose them.

Jiang also attended the news conference at the State Council's Information Office on Thursday.

As the authority of NGO registration, the Ministry of Civil Affairs conducts annual inspection on NGOs' financial situations, internal governance and vital information disclosure, especially in terms of fundraising activities.

Jiang added that the ministry also requires a qualified third-party institute to audit the financial reports of NGOs and give star ratings for NGOs based on an independent organization's evaluation on their annual performances.

Deng Guosheng, director of the NGO research center at Tsinghua University, believes that the government's annual inspection play a "limited" role in monitoring NGOs effectively.

"The yearly official check is heavily relying on the information that NGOs filled in the form. Therefore, it leaves freedom for NGOs to manipulate the information," he said.

In addition, it is also questionable how independent a third party in evaluation work can be when work is usually government-dominated, he added.
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