China publishes supervisory list for foreign NGOs

BEIJING (Reuters) - China's Ministry of Public Security published on Tuesday a list of government bodies that will act as a go-between with the ministry and foreign non-governmental organizations (NGO), ahead of the enforcement of a controversial new law. President Xi Jinping's administration has made sweeping changes to the law in the name of boosting national security, including a controversial cyber security law passed last month and another targeting foreign NGOs, slated for Jan. 1. But some foreign organizations including social and environmental advocacy groups fear they could inadvertently break the broad new rules, with some even shutting up shop to avoid such pitfalls. A main concern had been the failure to publish a list of "supervisory units" to be government middleman with the Ministry of Public Security, which has ultimate responsibility for registration and management. The list, now published on the ministry's website, breaks down subject areas and lists the government departments responsible for them. The sports ministry, for example, will be responsible for sports groups. Some areas will be overseen by several government departments. Climate change will be the responsibility of the state planner the National Development and Reform Commission, Environment Ministry, National Energy Administration and China Meteorological Administration. Foreign NGOs will need the approval of their government go-betweens before they can apply for registration with provincial public security departments, the ministry said. In November, the government twice issued clarification statements, saying there would be no grace period for NGOs to meet the new law, later adding that groups must give details of how they are funded. There remains a spectrum of concern among NGOs, from those who act in areas considered relatively benign by the authorities, such as education and health, to those who work in sensitive areas, including legal reform and rights issues. 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 Robert Birsel)