POLICY BRIEF NO. 1: The Fate of the Charity Law and Other National-level Legislation

While local legislation has been making significant headway, national-level legislation appears to be on hold.  The long-awaited revisions to the regulations governing the registration and management of social organizations, and the Charity Law, have both been delayed, despite rumors that their passage is imminent. The Charity Law, in particular, received a boost in 2011 due to a series of scandals that enveloped the charitable foundation sector. One example was the Guo Meimei incident that implicated the Chinese Red Cross and exemplified the lack of transparency and accountability in China’s philanthropy sector. These scandals raised awareness among both government leaders and society of the pressing need for a Charity Law to regulate philanthropy and fundraising.

Late in 2011, it was announced that the Charity Law had been included on the legislative plan for the 11th National People’s Congress (NPC) Standing Committee for 2011. The reports note that the NPC generally agrees with the content of the Ministry of Civil Affairs draft legislation and asks the State Council Legal Affairs Office (the State Council is the highest executive body in the Chinese government) to review the legislation and submit it to the NPC for consideration. Given that the Charity Law was also included on the 2010 legislative plan, and has been with the State Council for some time, it is difficult to know whether this announcement represents any significant progress in the Charity Law’s passage. Certainly, the significantly increased public scrutiny and discussion over this last year of problems and scandals in the philanthropic sector has placed more pressure on lawmakers to get the Charity Law approved.  But given the legislative logjam in the State Council, it is difficult to know when the Charity Law will be reviewed and sent to the NPC for approval.