It is time for “all charitable work to be put under the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party,” the amended Charity Law proclaims.
by Zhou Kexin
What is still not under direct control of the CCP in China? Not much. But let me think of it—charities. They did not exactly like the law regulating them in 2016, but it left them some space to breathe. This space will be eliminated by a new law, whose draft has been published for comments, a practice giving the cosmetic impression that citizens participate in drafting new statutes, while in fact their comments are rarely taken into account.
The draft does not create a brand-new Charity Law but amends the one of 2016. The amendment to Article 5 clearly states what the new law is all about: “All charitable work should be put under the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party.” Not that this principle did not exist before, but the control will now move from indirect to direct.
In addition to the existing supervision by the civil affairs agencies, tax authorities, the cyberspace administration (whose powers are reinforced), and others, charity organizations will now be directly controlled by police and public security.
Overseas donations and any relationship with non-Chinese counterparts should be previously approved by the Civil Affairs Department at or above the county level. These Departments will thus acquire considerable power on religion-based charities, including those connected with the five authorized religions, some of which largely rely on foreign donations. It has been explained that one of the concerns leading to the amended law is that charities may be used by foreign powers as vehicles for espionage.
Indeed, it is clear that the CCP is concerned by these Chinese charities that serve as a conduit for exchanges with the charitable arms of religious organizations abroad. It is not impossible that during these exchanges, religious content different from the usual pro-CCP propaganda of the bureaucrats leading the five authorize religions may be passed to Chinese citizens.
Although religion is not mentioned in the new law, which imposes limitations and increases surveillance on all charitable organizations, religion-based charities are looked at with particular suspect. Some of the new law’s provisions seem to have been drafted with the explicit aim of limiting their activities and putting them under further surveillance.
The Chinese Charity Law of 2016 was already one of the most restrictive in the world. The fact that it is amended just seven years after its enactment offers additional evidence of the CCP’s decision to strictly control civil society in all possible areas.