International nongovernmental organizations looking to work in China should have an easier time of it now that the Ministry of Civil Affairs has moved to decentralize approval authority over which organizations can operate in the country, China Daily reports.
Under the new framework, NGOs will be allowed to register with provincial civil affairs officials instead of applying to the ministry as before. Prior to the change, which was launched on a trial basis in Yunnan province in 2006, most international groups were required to register as business entities, thus restricting the work they could do in the country. With the change, NGOs will receive an identification number from the provincial government, as well as help with tax registration issues, residence permits for employees, and foreign exchange accounts.
NGOs have long been regarded by many in the Chinese government as a threat, making it difficult for them to operate in the country, said Wang Zhenyao, director of the China Philanthropy Research Institute at Beijing Normal University. "Now, the Ministry of Civil Affairs has given the power to the provincial level," he added. "It is a big step forward and will facilitate the work of NGOs."
According to an unidentified spokesperson for Save the Children, which had been registered as a business in China, recognition as an NGO will help the organization when it comes to project and tax planning. "I can see some progress and a more friendly environment for international NGOs," she said. "We would [hope] to see simpler procedures for registration in the new regulations."