China says foreign NGOs must provide funding proof

BEIJING (Reuters) - Foreign non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in China must provide details of where their funding comes from and show that their chief representative has no criminal record, the government said of new rules due to come into effect next year.

Western governments have lambasted the foreign NGO law passed in April, saying it treats the groups as a criminal threat and would effectively force many out of the country.

The Ministry of Public Security said earlier this month there would be no “grace period” for the rules’ implementation.

Guidelines seeking to clarify the new rules, released by the ministry on Monday and reported by state media on Wednesday, say that NGOs must be “legitimately established” outside mainland China and have operated for at least two years before applying to set up an office.

To register, NGOs have to provide their charter and proof of the source of funds and show that their heads in the country have no criminal record, the ministry said.

NGOs will have to specify where they want to work geographically in China, but that must be in line with its “scope of business and actual needs”, it added.

Chinese officials defend the foreign NGO law, saying it would only be used to punish a handful of law-breaking organizations.

Rights groups say the law’s use of an ambiguous ban on activities that threaten national security or endanger social stability could be used to target groups doing work disliked by the ruling Communist Party.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Nick Macfie