The PRC Administrative Law on Foreign NGOs’ Activities within China (“Foreign NGO Law”) will take effect from 1 January 2017. The new law provides two options for foreign NGOs wanting to carry out activities in China, namely registering a representative office, or cooperating with a Chinese partner to carry out temporary activities after filing records. The Ministry of Public Security (“MPS”) and its local counterparts are the authorities in charge of registration and record filing matters.

To provide practical guidance before the Foreign NGO Law takes effect, the MPS published the Guidance on the Registration of Representative Offices and Record Filing of Temporary Activities for Foreign NGOs(“Guidance”) on 28 November 2016. With regard to the registration of a representative office, the Guidance sets out the qualification criteria, the application procedures, the materials that need to be submitted, and the requirements for the name and geographic scope of the representative office. The Guidance also sets out the requirements and procedures for the alteration of registered information, the annual reviews, the de-registration of an office, and for the record filing of temporary activities.

The Guidance clarifies that a foreign NGO is allowed to establish more than one representative office in China. Each representative office shall only carry out activities within the geographic scope permitted, and there shall be no overlap between the geographic scopes of any two representative offices. The government will also publish a catalogue listing foreign NGOs’ permitted business scope within China, as well as their relevant business supervisory authorities. This catalogue is expected to make it clearer for a foreign NGO to identify and file applications with the appropriate supervisory authorities. The Guidance also provides two of the MPS’s hotline numbers which will accept questions from the public.

For foreign NGOs that have not yet entered China, the Guidance provides them with a clear roadmap of the regulatory framework of the Foreign NGOs Law. For foreign NGOs that have already established a presence in China in one form or another, however, neither the Foreign NGO Law nor the Guidanceaddresses whether, or how, they should adjust current their organisation or operation structures. We expect to see more guidance published in this regard before the effective date of the Foreign NGO Law.