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Foreign NGOs Working In China Will Now Face Tougher Scrutiny From The Police

The decision, which will go into effect in 2017, will affect 7,000 to 10,000 non-governmental organizations.

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It just got a little harder — again — to try to do good in China. On Thursday, China's Congress passed a controversial new law imposing stricter regulations on non-Chinese NGOs operating inside the country, according to Xinhua.

Update: Foreign NGOs operating on #China mainland without approval to be punished https://t.co/FFzE7f28GR

Starting in 2017, the new law will put foreign NGOs under the Public Security Bureau's supervision instead of the Ministry of Civil Affairs, which currently oversees them. Foreign NGOs will face tighter control and supervision of their daily activities and finances.

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Foreign and domestic nongovernment organizations expressed "considerable anxiety" when the first draft of the law started to circulate a year ago, according to the New York Times.

The police control will extend to all nongovernment organizations, literally, including environmental ones such as Greenpeace, educational ones such as TED, as well as philanthropical, cultural, business, religion and human rights organizations. You name an organization operating in China, the Chinese police will have control over it.

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Even prior to the law's passage, the climate hasn't been great for NGOs in China. In January, a Swedish activist "confessed" on China's state television CCTV to charges of damaging national security with his NGO's support of local rights lawyers.

CCTV

"National security" as defined in a sweeping law passed in 2015 is basically anything that the Chinese government says it is. The activist was released and left China eventually.

The Overseas NGO Management Law has raised widespread concern among international organizations and politicians:

Deeply concerned at passage of new NGO law in #China. Act limits space for civil society; puts legitimate work of independent NGOs at risk.

The new law is viewed as part of a series of campaigns cracking down on any perceived threat against the Communist Party. Just two weeks ago, Chinese women were warned not to fall in "dangerous love" with foreign men – they might be spies:

China’s “Dangerous Love” campaign warning against dating foreign spies is met with shrugs. https://t.co/czlHVrP0Bi

For a police force that's busy monitoring conversations and activities of people including journalists, dissidents, protesters on a 24/7 basis both on and offline, it remains unclear how much they'll cope with 7,000 more organizations to look after.

The police will be now entitled even greater a power to scrutinize their operations: overseas NGOs will be required to have the endorsement of a local organizations; an organization will be forced to shut down if it doesn't receive official approval to operate in the country.

Fred Dufour / AFP / Getty Images

The new law passed with a vote of 147 in favor, one against, and one absence. To be fair, probably we should be happy – the draft versions were worse. It was proposed that each organization should only be allowed to have one office in China, and that organizations needed to renew their licenses every other five years, but these were revoked.

Under the law as passed, overseas NGOs — with the help of their local partners — will have to get approval 15 days ahead of time before they take any action within China.

But China is not alone in cracking down on outside influences. Powerful nations such as Russia and India are reportedly using similar tactics in limiting overseas NGOs to step up the state's powers.

Beimeng Fu is a BuzzFeed News World Reporter covering China and is based in New York.

Contact Beimeng Fu at beimeng.fu@buzzfeed.com.

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