A group of 36 Chinese lawyers have offered their assistance to foreign NGOs following the implementation of a broad new law on January 1.
The Law on Management of Domestic Activities of Overseas Non-governmental Organisations, which was passed last April, gives police broad powers over overseas organisations. It also allows authorities to ban activities deemed to be threatening national security or harming social interests.
The law has been called “draconian” by rights organisations, who say it could be used to target groups doing work that the party does not like.
The vagueness of the rules is also causing concern within groups, with some leaving the country to avoid problems.
The 36 lawyers founded the Lawyers’ Legal Services Group on Tuesday in response to the NGO law. A statement released by the group said they will provide services including consultation and legal advice, aid in preparing legal documents and legal representation, as well as legal training and talks.
The statement said that the new law is indicative of a shift in the state’s policy of non-recognition, non-prohibition and non-intervention on foreign NGOs.
“It is extremely necessary for legal professionals to provide assistance concerning how relevant departments will enforce the law and how overseas NGOs and individuals can respond, ” it said.
Founding member Chen Jinxue – who is also representing the family of detained lawyer Jiang Tianyong – told US-backed Radio Free Asia that the added pressure on NGOs is doing great harm to civil society. Groups doing rights defense work now face increased difficulties including stricter control from police and having their sources of funding cut off, he said.
“As a human rights lawyer I think we should stand in solidarity with them; we should make this our responsibility,” he said.