Our Registration Story: The Asia Foundation

中文 English
This article was originally published by the Center for Charity Law (CCL) at the China Philanthropy Research Institute (CPRI) of Beijing Normal University. See the original here.


The Law of the People’s Republic of China on Administration of Activities of Overseas Non-governmental Organizations in the Mainland of China (ONGO Law) came into effect on January 1st 2017, and since then, its implementation has garnered significant attention from ONGOs and other stakeholders. In the past months, many ONGOs have successfully registered their representative offices with public security departments across the country. The successful registration of representative offices is a joint effort relying on the cooperation of many forces.


The Asia Foundation’s Story in China 

Q: What is TAF’s story in China? When and why did TAF come to China? How does its mission in China relate to the general mission of TAF?

A: 1. The Asia Foundation is a nonprofit international development organization. Our work across the region addresses five overarching goals—strengthen governance, empower women, expand economic opportunity, increase environmental resilience, and promote regional cooperation.

2. After the establishment of China-US diplomatic relations in January 1979, The Asia Foundation consulted widely, trying to find a foothold for carrying out our projects in China. In September 1979, the State Scientific and Technological Commission (present name: the Ministry of Science and Technology) held the first conference about the impact of information technology on China’s future economic development. Entrusted by the State Scientific and Technological Commission, The Asia Foundation invited 9 international computer experts to attend the conference as foreign experts. After arriving in Beijing, with the recommendation from the State Scientific and Technological Commission, The Asia Foundation held both formal and informal talks. The Chinese side brought up project ideas that they hoped The Asia Foundation could support, including holding the second information technology conference the next year in the U.S.

Shortly after that, in February 1980, Dr. Hayden Williams, the president of The Asia Foundation at that time, was invited by the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Coopertation (present name: the Ministry of Commerce), and came to Beijing to discuss project cooperation in details. He had extensive and in-depth communication with the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Coopertation, University of International Business and Economics, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and China Foreign Affairs University. Our earliest projects include diplomat-training projects, book donation projects, etc., in response to China’s need for opportunities to study in the U.S., obtaining more English materials and learning advanced technology. In 1994, as the number of our projects in China increased, we set up a Beijing office and hired our first local employee.

3. Today, our work in China remains as relevant as ever with initiatives around regional cooperation and U.S.-China exchange, disaster management, charity sector development, child welfare and protection, women’s development and gender equality, and poverty alleviation and reduction. The Foundation also continues to support Chinese international development efforts that are sustainable, informed by international practices, and responsive to local needs.


Q: What are some of your proudest projects in China? What are some major milestones that TAF has achieved over the years in China?

A: The Asia Foundation has had many achievements during almost 40 years of work in China.  The followings are a few examples:

1. Facilitate cooperative relations and non-governmental exchange between the United States and China:The Asia Foundation has worked with universities and research institutions to promote the development of bilateral relations through inter-organizational communications and seminars.

2. Provide hundreds of scholarships, grants and other opportunities to study overseas, to help China enhance its management capacity in the fields of diplomacy and international economic relations.

3. Support the development of China’s charity sector: supporting the development of China’s charity sector is one of the key program fields of The Asia Foundation. With China’s national Charity Law coming into force, the Foundation will continue to support the research and training on supporting policies to promote the effective implementation of the Charity Law.

4. Help China enhance its capacity in disaster preparedness and disaster management: For over a decade, The Asia Foundation has teamed with Chinese partners to enhance China’s capacity in community-based disaster preparedness and natural disaster response.

5. Enhance the response mechanisms to domestic violence against children: Together with our Chinese partners, we promote multi-sector collaborations on child welfare and protection, and provide suggestions and recommendations for the development of China’s child protection system.

6. Support poverty alleviation or reduction of migrant women: during the past 20 years, our projects have assisted more than one million migrant women, who came from more than 20 provinces across the country, to improve their economic conditions, obtain social services and integrate into the local communities.

7. Book donation: Our “Books for Asia” project has donated around 4 million quality English books to more than 700 higher education institutions in China.

8. Support China’s global engagement: We work with Chinese universities, think tanks, businesses, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and government agencies on programs that advance the capacity of Chinese NGOs to respond to development challenges in Asia. The Asia Foundation also considers promoting international development collaborations as one of its future work priorities.


Pre-ONGO Law 

Q: What was The Asia Foundation’s legal status before the ONGO Law? Did The Asia Foundation endure any extra scrutiny because of its legal status before?

A: 1. Before the promulgation of the ONGO law, The Asia Foundation did not have a legal entity in China. Although there was no formal registration status, we maintained close ties with the Chinese government departments. From 1979 when we first came to China, to 1994 when we set up an office in China, and then throughout these years of carrying out our projects in China, we regularly communicated with relevant departments to report on the work of our projects and the overall operation of our office.

2. Compliance to the relevant regulations has always been a significant goal of our work. Especially after the promulgation of the “Regulation on the Administration of Foundations”, we had communication with the relevant departments, and some departments actively helped us to coordinate, trying to find a supervisory department. But none of these efforts came into fruition.

3. Because we were not able to officially register, we encountered some difficulties in our work. There were many problems that need to be coordinated with a great deal of time and energy, such as the cooperation with Chinese partners and obtaining visas for our foreign staff. So the promulgation of the law is indeed a good thing for us. It is the first law that China has to define and regulate overseas NGOs like us that carry out activities in China, so it has become a channel that gives us clear guidance on our registration. From this perspective, this law has tremendous significance. It marks the beginning of a new era for the communication and cooperation between overseas NGOs and China.


Q: How closely did you follow the development of the ONGO Law? Have you ever submitted legislative opinions or suggestions to the relevant authorities on the law?

A: We watched closely the development of the ONGO Law. We were very pleased when we saw that the draft of the law was released on the website of the National People’s Congress to collect public opinions, because we believe that it would have a positive impact on the perfection of the law if there could be more inputs and views from stakeholders and the public. We valued the opportunity to submit our opinions. We communicated several times with the headquarters, and then we submitted feedback in the name of The Asia Foundation.


Registration Process 

Q: How did you start preparing for your registration? How did you establish contact with relevant departments?

A: 1. Right after the implementation of the law starting on January 1, 2017, we started our registration process. Our headquarters was very supportive for our registration work. Our president came to China and met with the relevant departments to discuss the registration, introducing in detail the efforts and contribution that The Asia Foundation has made for China’s development for all these years.

2. At the same time, we strengthened our communication with the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau, who was in charge of the registration. In our whole registration process, they provided clear direction and guidance regarding our registration application. Their attitudes were conscientious and patient and they responded our staff’s specific questions in a timely manner. At the certification ceremony, we gave them a silk banner that wrote: “warm and efficient, open and pragmatic”. I think these four words are a good summary of the work attitude of the ONGO Management Office at the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau, based on our experience in the registration process. If there were not their open and pragmatic spirit, or their enthusiastic and efficient work, we wouldn’t have come to where we are today. After the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries (CPAFFC) was included in the list of Professional Supervisory Units (PSUs) for ONGOs, we proactively communicated with the CPAFFC. Our work scope has a lot of overlap with that of the CPAFFC. We are very pleased to have CPAFFC as our PSU.

3. Throughout the preparation process, I think that efficient and honest communication, with both the PSU and the public security departments, is very important. In addition to the fact that the colleagues in our Beijing office who were responsible for the registration and I myself maintained communication with the relevant departments, we also mobilized The Asia Foundation Board, former trustees, and the headquarters’ leadership, by using their trips to China to set up relevant meetings. Every time before we met with the relevant departments, we made a lot of preparation, including compiling materials such as brochures and CDs that demonstrate our achievements and contributions in China throughout so many years.


Q: How did you find your Professional Supervisory Unit (PSU)?

A: Because of the broadness of our work field, finding a suitable PSU was the greatest challenge that we faced during the registrationm process. We watched closely on the list of PSUs. When we knew that CPAFFC was included on that list, we proactively started to make contact with CPAFFC, introducing them about our foundation, the foundation’s past and future work, the match between our work field and that of the CPAFFC’s, and our communication with the registration authority. Finally, after thorough consideration, CPAFFC agreed to become our PSU.


Q: How did you communicate with your headquarters overseas and within your field office?

A: 1. Our relationship with the headquarters is very balanced. I report regularly to the headquarters, and maintain close and frequent communication with them. And the headquarters has enough trust in us and gives us enough power and flexibility in our work. Since all of our work priorities are in Asia, the focus of our headquarters’ work is to support our local offices in Asia. For The Asia Foundation, in our thirty years of work in China, from the beginning when there was no ONGO Law to now that the ONGO has been implemented, the headquarters and the Chinese office are both committed to securing our registration in China. So from the leaders at the headquarters, to the colleagues at the headquarters who provided assistance, and then to our Beijing office, we were all working towards China office registration.

2. Professor David Lampton, Chairman of the Board of The Asia Foundation, is an internationally renowned expert in the study of China. Our board has also set up a temporary group with members who are associated with China and have in-depth knowledge about China. They discussed the registration progress of the Chinese office during each board meeting, and provided advice and support.

3. The work inside our office in China is also very transparent. We are a very cohesive team. Whether it is the communication between project officers and the finance or logistics team, or the communication between the project teams, we all do it very well. From the time before the promulgation of the ONGO Law, to the actual registration process, I have ensured that our staff knew what action we were taking for the registration, what kind of cooperation that we needed from everyone, etc. Our staff have been working in The Asia Foundation for many years. We are very attached to this organization, and we are all working together in the same direction.

Looking Forward

Q: What role would CPAFFC play in your future work? What kind of help do you expect your PSU to provide for your work in the future? How is the communication with your PSU going?

A: We had contact with CPAFFC, including communication and collaboration on some of our US-China exchange programs. After the registration, the CPAFFC will guide and supervise our work in China as our PSU. We hope that we can establish regular communication mechanisms with the PSU and the public security departments.


Q: What hopes do you have for the future in terms of ONGO Law implementation? Do you have any suggestions for the ONGO Law implementing authorities? What issue areas do you expect the relevant departments to provide detailed and clear guidance on?

A: We hope that more ONGOs can find suitable PSUs and successfully register their representative offices in China. After we successfully registered our Beijing representative office, we immediately started other compliance procedures, in accordance with the requirements of the registration authority and the PSU. It now appears that to figure out what kinds of accounting rules and what tax rules are applicable to the representative offices of ONGOs are the two most outstanding issues to solve. We are actively communicating with the relevant departments and experts, hoping to provide some useful suggestions for the development of the corresponding supporting measures. We also hope that there will be clarifications on some of the issues that are not yet clear in the law, such as tax, financial regulations, etc.


Q: What did you learn during this registration process? What are some suggestions and tips you will have for the ONGO community? How do you think The Asia Foundation’s experience can benefit other ONGOs?

A: 1. I think that in the process of registration, a positive attitude is very important. Within our foundation, from the board to the headquarters, and then to the Beijing office, we wanted to register from the very beginning, and we took the initiative to understand and communicate. Only when we make proactive communication, can the PSU and registration authority know about us, and provide guidance and advice on our registration.  This is a suggestion for the organizations that have not been registered: only the honest communication can help the PSU and registration authority to fully understand you and trust you, so that you can better promote the registration and the projects afterwards.

2. From the perspective of The Asia Foundation, our consistent value is that, at the places where we work, our role is to serve and assist. We are guests, so we need the local government’s welcome. And the premise of such welcome is that what we do indeed meet the local needs. The grasp of the local needs comes from our long-term local presence, and our communication and cooperation with local partners. The most important thing in this process is our respect for the local communities.

 2017-10-17 慈善法律中心 善见


问: 亚洲基金会与中国有何渊源?亚洲基金会何时来到中国?为什么来到中国?基金会在中国的使命与其整体的使命如何关联?
答: 1. 亚洲基金会是一个非营利国际发展机构,我们在亚洲地区的工作主要有五个战略目标:加强公共管理、妇女赋权、拓展经济发展机遇、增强生态环境稳定性和推动地区协作。
2. 1979年1月中美建交后,亚洲基金会广泛征询意见,寻求在华开展项目的落脚点。1979年9月,中国国家科委(现科技部)主办第一届关于信息技术对中国未来经济发展的作用的大会,亚洲基金会受中国国家科委委托,邀请了9位国际计算机专家作为外方专家参会。来到北京后,亚洲基金会在中国国家科委的引荐下,进行了很多正式和非正式的会谈。中方提出了希望得到亚洲基金会协助的项目,包括接下来一年在美国召开第二届信息技术大会。
仅仅在几个月后的1980年2月,当时的亚洲基金会会长Hayden Williams 博士受中国经贸部(现商务部)邀请,来北京洽谈具体的项目合作。他跟中国经贸部,经贸大学,外交部,外交学院等进行了广泛深入的沟通。回应当时中方对去美国学习考察,希望充实英文资料,了解世界先进技术的需求,我们最早开始的项目包括外交官培训项目,赠书项目等。1994年,随着在华项目的增加,基金会设立北京办公室并招募了第一个本地员工。
3. 目前,我们在中国的工作主要围绕以下几个方面:区域合作和中美交流、灾害管理、公益慈善、儿童福利与未成年人保护、妇女发展与性别平等和扶贫减贫等。亚洲基金会也继续支持中国可持续的、与国际接轨、同时也与本土实际需要相结合的国际性发展。 

问: 亚洲基金会在中国最引以为豪的项目有哪些?在过去这些年中,亚洲基金会在中国取得了哪些里程碑式的成就?

答: 亚洲基金会在华近四十年有许多活动成果,以下仅举几个其中的例子:

1. 推动中美关系发展和民间交流:亚洲基金会与众多高等院校和研究机构合作,通过组织交流和研讨会,促进双边关系发展。

2. 提供数百笔奖学金、助学金和其他海外学习机会,帮助中国提升外交和国际经济关系领域的管理能力。

3. 助力中国慈善领域发展: 支持慈善领域发展是亚洲基金会的标志性项目领域之一。随着《慈善法》的颁布,亚洲基金会继续支持相关配套政策的研究和培训活动,以助力这部法律的有效执行。

4. 帮助中国提升备灾和灾害管理能力: 过去十余年,亚洲基金会与中国的合作伙伴一起,致力于提升中国在社区备灾和有效应对自然灾害方面的能力。

5. 加强针对儿童的家庭暴力的应对机制:我们和中国合作伙伴一起,推动多部门联动的儿童福利和保护力量,为中国儿童保护制度的发展建言献策。

6. 支持流动女性减贫脱贫: 在过去的二十年间,我们的项目协助来自全国20多个省份的100多万流动女性改善经济机会、获取社会服务和融入当地社区。

7. 图书捐赠:我们的“亚洲赠书”项目至今已向全国700多所高等教育院校捐赠了近400万册高质量的英文书籍。

8. 支持“中国走出去”战略: 我们与大学、智库、企业、非政府组织和政府机构开展合作,帮助中国社会组织参与应对亚洲面临的发展挑战。亚洲基金会也将推动国际发展合作视为今后的工作重点之一。



问: 在《境外法》颁布之前,亚洲基金会在中国的法律地位是什么样的?

答: 1. 在《境外法》出台之前,亚洲基金会在中国并没有一个法律实体。虽然没有一个正式的注册状态,但我们与中国政府部门保持紧密的联系。从我们1979年来到中国,到1994年在中国设立办公室,到之后多年在中国开展项目期间,我们都定期与有关部门进行沟通,汇报我们在国内的项目工作和整体运行情况。

2. 我们始终将合规运营作为重要工作目标,尤其是在《基金会管理条例》出台后,我们和有关部门进行过多次沟通,也有些部门积极地帮我们去协调,试图找到一个主管部门,但是都没有成功。

3. 由于未能正式注册,我们在实际工作中遇到一些困难,有很多问题需要花费很长的时间和很大的精力进行协调,比如与中方合作机构的合作、办公室外籍员工的签证等具体问题。所以《境外法》的出台,对于我们来说是一个具有重大积极意义的好事。这个法是中国第一部完整定义和规范类似我们这样的境外非政府组织在中国境内开展活动的专门法律,它为我们提供了一个非常明确的法律框架,从而使得我们正式注册有了明确的指引的渠道。从这点来说,这部法律是具有划时代意义的,它开启了一个境外非政府组织与中国开展交流合作的新时代。


问: 你们是否曾紧密关注中国《境外法》的发展?你们是否曾就该法向有关部门提交过立法意见或建议?

答: 我们一直紧密地关注着《境外法》的发展。看到法律草案在全国人大的网站上公开征求意见,我们感到非常高兴,因为我们相信,更多地收集利益相关方和公众的意见对法律最终的完善是具有积极意义的。我们非常重视法律草案公开征求意见的机会,跟总部进行了多次沟通,然后以亚洲基金会的名义提交了反馈意见。



问: 你们是如何开始准备登记的?是如何和有关部门建立联系的?

答: 1. 《境外法》2017年1月1日正式实施后,我们立即启动了注册工作。我们总部非常支持我们的注册工作,会长到中国就注册事宜与相关部门进行了会面,详细介绍了亚洲基金会在中国的工作和多年来对中国发展所做出的努力和贡献。

2. 与此同时,我们加强与作为登记管理机关的北京市公安局的沟通。北京市公安局具体负责登记管理事宜,在整个注册过程中,他们对我们的注册工作提出了明确的要求和指导,而且态度非常认真和耐心,我们的负责人员能够及时得到具体问题的答案。在颁证仪式上,我们送给他们的锦旗上写了:“热情高效,开放务实”八个字。我觉得这八个字很好地体现了我们在注册过程中体会到的北京市局境外办的工作态度。如果没有他们开放务实的精神和热情高效的工作,我们应该走不到今天这一步。中国人民对外友好协会被纳入境外NGO的业务主管单位名录后,我们与友协进行了积极的接触。在业务领域方面,我们与友协有很多的重合,对友协能够成为我们的业务主管单位,我们非常高兴。

3. 在整个准备过程中,我认为无论是和业务主管单位,还是和公安部门,高效坦诚的沟通都是非常重要的。除了我本人和我们办公室负责具体注册事宜的同事保持与相关部门的沟通外,我们还调动了亚洲基金会理事会、前任理事、总部领导层等各方面的力量,利用他们来华访问的时机安排相应的会面。每一次与相关部门会面,我们都会做好充分的准备,包括提交一些有代表性的项目成果,比如小册子、CD等,以便更形象地展示我们多年在中国的成绩和贡献。


问: 你们是如何找到现在的业务主管单位的?

答: 因为我们工作领域的宽泛性,如何找到一个合适的业务主管单位是我们在注册工作中面临的最大一个问题,因此我们一直在关注公安部门公布的《业务主管单位名录》,在我们得知全国友协被纳入主管单位名录后,我们积极与友协取得联系,向友协介绍了我们的基金会、我们以往和今后将要开展的工作、我们的工作与友协的契合度以及我们与登记管理机关的沟通情况。最终,友协在充分考虑各方面情况后,同意担任我们的业务主管单位。


问: 你们是如何与海外的总部,以及中国办公室内部的同事沟通的?

答: 1. 我们与总部的关系处于一个非常好的平衡点。我会定期给总部汇报,保持密切频繁的沟通,而总部对我们有足够的信任并给予我们的工作充分的授权和灵活性。由于我们所有的工作重点都在亚洲,总部的工作重心就是要支持我们这些在亚洲当地的办公室。对于亚洲基金会来讲,在我们在中国工作的三十多年里,从一开始法律没有出台到现在法律出台,从总部的领导层和中国办公室都有一个贯穿始终的思想,那就是我们一定要注册。所以从总部的领导层,到总部提供协助的同事,再到我们北京办公室,都是非常支持配合这次注册的。

2. 亚洲基金会的理事长大卫兰普顿教授,是国际知名的研究中国问题的专家,我们理事会还成立了一个临时性的中国小组,成员包括与中国有渊源和对中国有深入了解的理事。他们在每次理事会开会期间会对中国办公室的注册情况进行讨论,并提供建议和支持。

3. 我们中国办公室内部的工作也是非常透明的。我们是一个非常有凝聚力的团队。无论是项目官员和财务、后勤的沟通,还是项目团队之间的沟通,我们都做得非常好。从法律出台前到具体办理注册的过程中,我都确保让员工知晓我们针对注册问题在采取哪些行动、需要得到大家什么样的配合。我们的员工都在亚洲基金会工作了很多年,我们对这个机构非常有感情,大家都朝着一个方向共同努力。



问: 设立代表机构以后,友协在你们今后的工作中具体扮演什么角色?在未来开展活动过程中,你们希望他们在哪些方面给予你们指导和帮助?目前你们与业务主管部门的沟通进展如何?

答: 我们以前和友协曾经有过工作上的联系,在中美交流的一些项目上,我们有过沟通和协作。登记注册后,友协作为我们的业务主管单位,将对我们在华业务进行指导和监管。我们希望能和业务主管单位以及公安部门建立定期的沟通机制。


问: 对未来境外非政府组织管理法的实施,你有什么期待?对于实施这一法律的政府部门,你有什么建议?你们希望有关部门今后能够在哪些领域能够提供更细致、清晰的指导?

答: 我们希望能有更多的境外非政府组织能找到合适的业务主管部门,并成功注册在华代表机构。我们在北京代表处成功注册后,马上按照登记管理机关和业务主管单位的要求,开始了相应的合规手续的办理。目前看来,境外非政府组织代表机构适用哪种会计规则和适用的税务问题是最主要的两个悬而未决的问题。我们在积极地与有关部门和专家沟通,希望能对相应配套措施的制定提供一些有益的建议。在实施细则里将一些法律本身没有明确的问题进一步明确,例如税务、财务规则等。


问: 在亚洲基金会在中国的注册过程中,你收获到了什么? 你对其他的境外非政府组织有什么建议或提示吗?你认为亚洲基金会的经验会给其他的境外非政府组织带来怎样的益处?

答: 1. 我认为在注册的过程中,积极的态度很重要。在我们基金会内部,从理事会到总部再到北京办公室,我们从一开始就想要注册,并积极主动地去进行了解和沟通。只有我们的积极沟通,业务主管单位和登记管理机关才会了解我们,并愿意就具体的注册事宜为我们提供指导和建议。这个建议非常适合那些还没有登记注册的组织,一定要通过开诚布公的交流让业务主管单位和登记管理机关充分了解和产生信任,这样才能更好地推动注册及之后的项目活动。

2. 从亚洲基金会的角度来讲,我们一直以来的价值观就是:我们在当地的工作是起到服务和协助的作用。我们是客人,那我们去做客需要当地政府的欢迎,而欢迎我们的前提是我们所做的事情是符合当地需要的。对当地需要的把握是通过我们长期植根在当地,跟当地的合作伙伴保持沟通合作来获得的。这个过程中最主要的是我们对当地的尊重。


北师大中国公益研究院慈善法律中心,一直致力于为ONGOs顺利在境内注册和备案提供专业的智力支持,并对机构运作和相关活动的开展提供咨询。目前,中心已经成功为多家境外机构提供了代表机构注册和备案等方面的咨询服务。具体内容请参见FNGO Registration Support Program 


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