Chilling Higher Ed Cooperation in China?

A stringent new law regulating foreign nongovernmental organizations in China could potentially constrain the activities of overseas higher education institutions in a variety of ways.

The law, approved by China’s legislature late last month, requires foreign NGOs conducting activities in mainland China to register with police agencies and to operate under the supervision of approved Chinese sponsoring organizations. The law requires foreign NGOs engaging in activities in mainland China to either conduct them through registered representative offices or register activities of a temporary nature with Chinese partner entities that agree to serve as sponsors.

The law, which critics contend gives overly broad latitude to the police authorities charged with enforcing it, has been widely seen as chilling by foreign NGOs and some governments. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry issued an April 28 statement expressing his deep concern that the law “will negatively impact important people-to-people ties between our two countries and the development of civil society in China.” While noting that the final version of the law includes improvements from the original draft, Kerry said it nonetheless “creates a highly uncertain and potentially hostile environment for foreign nonprofit, nongovernmental organizations and their Chinese partners that will no doubt discourage activities and initiatives.”

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