China placed tough restrictions on foreign NGOs on Thursday, drawing condemnation from the international human rights community. Reuters:
The law is part of a raft of legislation, including China’s counterterrorism law and a draft cyber security law, put forward amid a renewed crackdown on dissent by President Xi Jinping’s administration.
The law, which is set to come into effect on Jan. 1, grants broad powers to police to question NGO workers, monitor their finances, shut down offices and regulate their work.
Earlier drafts of the law had faced criticism from NGOs and foreign governments, which said it was too vague in its definition of what constituted actions that harmed China’s national interests and could harm the operations of social and environmental advocacy groups, besides business organizations and academia.
That ambiguity largely remained in the final version of the law, and officials who briefed reporters on the implications of the law on Thursday would not provide specific examples of actions by NGOs that constituted such violations.
Beijing is following in the footsteps of Moscow here, which passed its notorious “foreign agents” law in 2012. Putin and his mafia state have been using the laws to great effect since then to stifle criticism. Similarly, last week, the head of Russia’s Central Intelligence Committee ruffled the feathers of Russia’s beleaguered liberals by suggesting Moscow learn from and adopt China’s robust controls on the internet.
Authoritarians have picked up a thing or two from the very civil society organizations they are seeking to repress: they are learning to share “best practices” among themselves. How much longer until we have a proper global conference springing up, where the ruling elites of leading “sovereign democracies” like Syria, Venezuela, China, Iran and Russia can get together, properly network, and share ideas in earnest?