Foreign NGOs have been operating in China for more than a century under various garbs. For most of this period, tolerance of the Chinese government towards their activities mainly depended on the issue at hand, their origin, scale, impact and ability to stay clear of political red lines. This state of ambiguity certainly made them vulnerable but also gave them relative autonomy to pursue their campaign objectives.
The Overseas NGO Law which took effect on January 1, 2017, is China’s first attempt at creating a comprehensive regulatory framework for foreign NGOs and legitimizing their activities. Over the last 18 months, more than 400 foreign NGOs have obtained formal registration. Each of them is now supervised by a government agency and needs to make periodic filings relating to their finances and operations. Implementation of this law is a significant element of China’s larger thrust towards rule of law reforms. It also represents China’s efforts at balancing national security concerns with its need to create a respectable civil society.
India shares China’s concerns over activities of foreign NGOs within its borders albeit for different reasons. Is is desirable to have comprehensive regulation of NGO activities? Will China succeed in its balancing act? Can India learn from China’s experiment?
About the Speaker
Santosh Pai has been offering legal services to clients in the India-China corridor since 2010. His areas of interest include Chinese investments in India, India-China comparative law and policy, cross-cultural negotiations and board governance. He holds a B.A., LL.B. (Hons.) degree from NLSIU, Bangalore, LL.M. (Chinese law) from Tsinghua University, Beijing and an MBA from Vlerick University, Belgium (Peking University campus). His manuscript “Practical Guide on Investing in India for Chinese investors” has been translated into Chinese and published by China Law Press. Santosh is currently a partner at Link Legal, an Indian law firm. He teaches a India-China business course at IIM Shillong and volunteers at NGOs in his free time. He chairs the East Asia board of an international environmental NGO which oversees operations in Mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea.
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