26 March, 2016
China recently approved its first comprehensive law on charities and nonprofit organizations.
The legislation makes it easier for charities to register and provides protections for people who donate. It also provides stronger government supervision of the organizations.
Karla Simon is an American expert on civil society in China. She said there are two sides to the measure.
"You have two sides. One is that charities come into being more easily. That's the charity side. And then they are permitted to register, and more of them are. It applies to a broad range of charities. But the other side is, how do we protect the people who give money."
Lawmakers approved the new law at the yearly meeting China's National People's Congress. The meeting ended Wednesday.
Some people consider the law a government attempt to increase charitable giving. Donations stopped growing in 2011 when the media reported about the misuse of charity monies.
The Britain-based Charities Aid Foundation recently rated charitable giving in 145 countries. It placed China second to the bottom.
The legislation places a limit on yearly management fees. Charities are required to spend a certain amount of money they make. They can spend 70 percent of the amount given them that year, or 70 percent of the average income over the last three years.
The law also provides tax reductions for people who donate.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has pushed for greater control of civil society groups in China. The nation is considering a measure to place foreign nonprofit organizations under the jurisdiction of the police.
The new charity law says that charities found to be threatening to national security will be punished. Officials might cancel their registrations, for example.
Chinese police have arrested many human rights activists over the last four years reportedly for national security reasons.
Patrick Poon is a China researcher for Amnesty International.
"In China, what it means by endangering national security would be very broad, and subject to the authorities' interpretation."
Supporters say the charity legislation is aimed at strengthening approved civil society groups. This would permit nonprofit groups to help the government deal with the needs of the poor as China's economy slows. They say it will also permit China's new middle and upper classes to more easily donate to approved charities.
Anthony Spires is a civil society scholar at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. He said implementation of the legislation will be important to its effect on Chinese society.
"It's going to come down to, whether or not it's implemented at the local level. It's going to come down to whether or not the Ministry of Civil Affairs officials at the local level adopt a broad definition of charity, or a very narrow, specific one."
Spires said local officials probably will understand the law in a way that excludes organizations working on politically sensitive issues, such as women's or gay rights.
The Chinese government has said it wants to end poverty in China within four years and the new law is an attempt to reach that goal.
I'm Mario Ritter.
VOA's Shannon Van Sant reported this story. Mario Ritter adapted for Learning English using additional material from Reuters. Caty Weaver was the editor.
Words in This Story
comprehensive – adj.
charity – n. the organizations that help people in need
range –n. a group of things that usually share a similarity
management – n. the act or skill of controlling and making decisions about a business, department, sports team, etc.
jurisdiction –n. an area to which certain laws or rules apply
authority – n. people who have power to make decisions and enforce rules and laws
interpretation – n. the act or result of explaining or interpreting something: the way something is explained or understood
scholar – n. a person who has studied a subject for a long time and knows a lot about it : an intelligent and well-educated person who knows a particular subject very well
implement –v. to put into action, to carry out
gay – adj. people who are sexually attracted to members of the same sex