The Chinese government has released a new set of rules stating that representatives of the party must be established within social groups, as part of its tightening grip on non-governmental bodies.

The new rules governing social organisations were issued by the general office of the Communist Party’s Central Committee and the State Council on Sunday. They requested that departments across China conscientiously apply them, state media said. There is a lack of management of NGOs, and “some instances of social organisations violating the law and regulations sometimes occur,” said the document.

One of the basic principles listed in the set of rules was for organisations to adhere to the party’s leadership. The party must use its positioning within social groups “to ensure the correct political direction of social organisations,” it said.

The 5th Plenary Session of the 18th CPC Central Committee. Photo:

The rules also called for all party committees and governments to strengthen and develop the management of social organisations as part of their daily work. Their performance in this regard will be incorporated into their performance review systems. All levels of government should improve the punishment and anti-corruption mechanisms for NGOs, the rules said.

The Ministry of Civil Affairs, along with other departments, will establish a mechanism to examine founders and those in charge of NGOs, allowing it to question, replace, or ban those in charge.

The new rules also stated that civil servants cannot also be the heads of foundations or social service groups. Those who are serving in both capacities must leave either position within six months.

‘Legitimising party control’

Patrick Poon, a researcher at Amnesty International, told HKFP that the government is stifling civil society: “This kind of regulation tries to legitimize party control of social organizations by establishing party branches inside these non-government bodies.”

“The current government is simply trying to suffocate the civil society instead of providing means to encourage the development of civil society as it claims.” he said.

Photo: People’s Daily.

China passed a new law on foreign NGOs in April that controls their registration, operation and funding. It will also limit domestic groups’ ability to work with foreign organisations and obtain foreign funding. The law has met with criticism from rights groups, who say it is part of the country’s crackdown on civil society groups. The new law will be implemented in January 2017.

Catherine Lai

Catherine is a Canadian journalist and photographer who lived in Beijing for almost two years, working in TV and online media. Aside from Hong Kong and mainland affairs, she is also interested in urban spaces, art and feminism. She holds a BA in Literature and Art History from the University of British Columbia.