China passed a new law [Xinhua report] Thursday restricting non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and subjecting them to intense governmental scrutiny and other obligations such as reporting their sources of income and increasing the number of reasons for which their licenses will be revoked, including spreading rumors. Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] stated [press release] that under the new law, “authorities—particularly the police—will have virtually unchecked powers to target NGOs, restrict their activities, and ultimately stifle civil society,” and argued that the new law should be repealed. This new law was passed in the light of a recent 2015 victory by environmental NGOs over mining companies that had particularly contributed to pollution [JURIST report], which had encouraged international advocacy groups.
China first began to enact regulations aimed at hindering NGOs in 2012. The introduction of a bill aimed to step up supervision of the fast-growing sector, state media said [Xinhua report]. Many other countries, such as Russia, have recently enacted NGO regulations and restrictions [JURIST news archive]. Many critics of these laws consider them to be an effort to curb free speech [JURIST report]. The Russian law [JURIST report], signed by President Vladimir Putin [official website, in Russian] in July 2012, labels all NGOs that engage in political activity as “foreign agents” and requires them to register with the Justice Ministry before receiving any foreign funding. Both former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay and former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed concern over the law’s impact on freedom of speech.