Govt plans to give all NGOs equal treatment

Updated: 2012-05-08 06:49

By Zheng Jinran in Beijing and Xu Jingxi in Guangzhou (China Daily)

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All social organizations including those involved with human rights and politics will have equal status for registration and face the same supervisory review process, the minister of civil affairs said.

"Authorities will review such organizations from angles such as their founding conditions, necessity of establishment, activity objective and their roles in social and economic development," said Li Liguo, minister of civil affairs, on Monday.

While social organizations serving purposes such as commerce, charity and social welfare have had an easier time getting registered since the second half of last year, other favorable policies for their development will expand from pilot cities, such as Shenzhen and Guangzhou in Guangdong province, the minister said.

Charity fair to open

The first national charity fair, which will be held in July in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, will provide a platform for social organizations to exchange experience in running charities.

At the fair, major domestic social organizations, experts and governments will exchange opinions on philosophy and raise public awareness about their activities.

"Shenzhen, as a city of migrants and first of the special economic zones, has conducted registration system reform for eight years, making it rich in experience to exchange with others," Xu Qin, mayor of Shenzhen, said at a news conference on Monday in Beijing.

More than 350,000 volunteers have registered in the city, home to more than 4,800 registered social organizations. Many of these organizations engage in education or social surveys.

As a pilot city where a social organization can register without finding a sponsoring administrative department, Shenzhen has a lower threshold.

"But we will highlight the social organizations' transparency and make their conduct fair," Xu said.

The city has become well known for its support of social organizations after it gave legal status to One Foundation, which encountered trouble in other cities in 2010 because it existed in a gray area.

Zheng Jinran

Current regulations on social organizations require that a non-governmental organization must find an administrative body to oversee its activities as a precondition before they can register with the civil affairs authorities.

Under the new registering system, social organizations can register without an administrative body to oversee them, which will cut time and help more grassroots organizations get legal status.

The Guangzhou government has eased registration conditions for social organizations in all categories except for privately-run education, training and medical care organizations.

Guangzhou Green Point Environmental Protection Information Center, which helps university students across Guangdong province carry out environmental protection activities, has failed to get registered as a social organization since 2007.

"Government departments are reluctant to take responsibility as the supervisor, risking fraud or other problems that may happen," said Zhang Lifan, director of the center.

"A social organization in China used to be either a puppet of its connections in government or an unregistered, unsupervised one," he said. "But now, we can get rid of such an existence, becoming an independent legal entity, responsible for our own behavior, and the supervision is more reasonable and effective now."

But many cities do not have such favorable policies, and they may have to wait for some time to see the easier registration process after the new system is in place, experts said.

"The transitional period from the current system may last three to five years," said Wang Ming, director of the NGO Research Center at Tsinghua University and also expert consultant for the Ministry of Civil Affairs.

"The new registration system is not a simple move open to every social organization but may involve other changes, such as adding government departments and releasing supporting policies."

But the ministry cannot give a timetable for such an expansion in China, because the new registration system can be implemented only after the three administrative regulations are released, Li said.

"To better manage the flourishing social organizations, governments also need to change their minds about supervising by leading the public, media and industry to supervise the organizations," said Deng Guosheng, Wang's colleague.

After the registration process is reformed, the number of social organizations in China may increase to 1 million in five years, almost double the current figure, Wang said.

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