The Law on the Management of Overseas NGOs’ Activities in Mainland China has come into effect on January 1, 2017. Ever since its second draft was unveiled to the public and then the final draft was adopted, Chinese and international civil society organizations have expressed their concerns and criticisms, far beyond the expectation of the Chinese government that intends to regulate illegal activities and protect legitimate rights with this law. This paper argues that the unexpected responses are provoked not only by the political purpose behind the adoption of this law – to safeguard national security – but also by the different interpretations of the law due to the differences in legal thinking. Beginning with an analysis of the law’s text, this paper continues to look at the regulatory framework and what has provoked the unexpected responses from the public, examines the differences in legal thinking – an underlying issue in this regard, and proposes that to ensure the effective enforcement of the law efforts should be made in three aspects, i.e. making clarification, establishing standard procedures, and protecting rights, to settle the idea differences between the legislature and the overseas civil society.
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