Foundations in China are actively participating in the Charity Law amendment
By Cheng Gang, China Foundation Center (CFC)
China's philanthropy and charity industry has entered a new era of rule of law. Since its launch in 2016, the ‘Charity Law of the People's Republic of China’, referred to as the ‘Charity Law’, has been widely implemented as the pioneering law in the field of philanthropy and charity in China.
The Charity Law as a practice of open-door legislation
In China, it is rare to solicit public opinion for legislation, a practice called open-door legislation, but the Charity Law was different. During its preparation period, the Charity Law received positive responses from philanthropy and academia. After thoroughly listening to opinions from all sectors of society, six draft versions of expert recommendations on the Charity Law were formed. Based on these drafts, the Internal and Judicial Affairs Committee of the National People’s Congress developed the current version of the Charity Law, which was approved by the National People’s Congress on March 16, 2016.
The Impact of the Charity Law
The Charity Law is a milestone in China's philanthropy history and has played an essential role in promoting the development of philanthropy and charity in China. Charitable organisations now have laws to follow in their daily work, which has improved the standardisation of their operations. For the public, the launch of the Charity Law has also helped to raise their awareness of philanthropy and to encourage them to participate in it.
According to the National People’s Congress report on the Charity Law published in October 2020, its implementation promotes the development of philanthropy and charity in a comprehensive way by perfecting legal support in philanthropy, stimulating the vitality of charitable donations, and engaging more people to participate in volunteering services. Since the formulation of the law, the central and local governments have issued more than 400 supporting documents, which cover many key areas of charitable organisations' operations. The report shows that 87% of the respondents have donated cash or in-kind to charitable causes, gradually contributing to a social atmosphere for everyone to do good. Data also shows that in 2019, there were 10.8 billion hits on online public fundraising information platforms, and as of June 30, 2020, there were more than 172 million registered volunteers nationwide, more than 3.9 million volunteer service projects were published, and more than 2.19 billion hours of volunteer service were recorded.
In the field of foundation information disclosure and transparency, one of the Charity Law’s greatest contributions is establishing the Charity in China platform, a national charity information disclosure platform. Now, more than 6,000 foundations have shared their information on the platform, including their contact information, board members, related party information, organisational rules and regulations, annual work reports, public fundraising projects, significant events, and much more. Based on the commission of the Ministry of Civil Affairs, this platform is now operated by the China Foundation Center. People can find more than 30,000 charitable projects, more than 25,000 public fundraising activities, more than 600 single charitable trusts, and more than 10,000 annual work reports of charitable organisations in China. It is safe to say that the Charity in China platform, promoted by the Charity Law, has opened the door for Chinese foundations to communicate with the public, allowed the public to see the foundations more clearly, encouraged active interaction and communication between the foundation and the public, reduced lack of awareness or misunderstanding, and therefore achieved the purpose of enhancing the public's trust in the foundation industry.
In merely five years since implementing the Charity Law, we have seen the rapid development of the philanthropic and charitable sector. However, to respond to new demands arising from the sector, the Charity Law needs to be continuously enriched and revised, along with more operational regulations and policies, to adapt to the new challenges brought about by social development.
The revision of the Charity Law
Charitable foundations, social think tanks and charity education institutions across the country have launched a series of Charity Law revision seminars to jointly exchange their practices and experiences, put forward opinions and suggestions on the revision of the law, and contribute industry wisdom for high-quality development of philanthropy in China.
There is great enthusiasm for participation among foundations in provinces such as Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangdong. A ‘Charity Rule of Law Roundtable Seminar’ in Beijing has been held six times. During these seminars, nearly 100 foundation representatives actively discussed theoretical and practical issues such as the definition, legal status, the establishment, and the types of charitable organisations, the qualifications and the legal regulations of charitable fundraising activities, and the legal norms of charitable donations, among others. In Shanghai, eight seminars on the revision of the Charity Law have been held so far. Dozens of foundations have separately conducted online discussions regarding charity and charitable fundraising, charitable tax incentives, charitable service legislation, provision of the charitable trust system, the protection of the rights and interests of charitable organisations and other issues. In Guangdong, more than 50 representatives from charitable foundations, charity associations and other charity organisations from the Pearl River Delta region participated in three seminars held in Zhuhai, Shenzhen, and Guangzhou to offer advice and suggestions for the law’s revision.
Since the implementation of the Charity Law, China's charitable foundations not only serve as participants to exchange and share their practical experience and raise questions; they also actively lead the organisation of seminars and forums, fund academic research, disseminate and promote the results of discussions and revisions of the Charity Law, and actively participate in the revision of the law. For example, Adream Foundation in Shanghai, Leping Social Entrepreneur Foundation in Beijing, and Future Smile Charitable Foundation in Zhejiang have funded the ‘Charity Law Revision Series Seminar’ together with the other three foundations.
The extensive participation of foundations makes the Charity Law not only a law formulated by the government and scholars, but also a law initiated, improved, and enforced by charitable organisations themselves.
Mr Cheng Gang is a well-respected philanthropic and business leader and an expert on transparency and governance. He participated in the creation of the China Foundation Center (CFC) and is now its president. His work focuses on the transparency and credibility enhancement of the foundation sector, with special attention on data openness and promoting the healthy development of the charity field. Mr Cheng Gang played an advisory role both in the legislation period and the law revision period of the Charity Law.