A draft of China's first bill regulating charities was submitted to the national legislature on Wednesday, with lawmakers hoping it can give donors confidence to help the country meet its poverty alleviation targets.[Special coverage]
"Charitable programs are indispensable for the fight against poverty. Formulating a charity law helps nongovernmental sources work together in taking targeted measures to eliminate poverty and contribute to achieving the goal of building a moderately prosperous society," said Li Jianguo, vice chairman of the National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee, when introducing the bill to NPC deputies at the NPC annual session.
The law provides stipulations on how charities should be registered, giving approved charities more freedom in their operations than is currently the case. It also promises tax benefits for charitable activities.
China is aiming to ensure that all its rural residents are living above the poverty line by 2020. As of the end of 2015, 55.75 million rural Chinese were living below the line, meaning they had a per capita net income of less than 2,800 yuan (430 U.S. dollars) a year.
Annual donations to registered charities in China soared from 10 billion yuan to 100 billion yuan in the past decade. But both the public and authorities are wary of corruption and mismanagement in the charity sector. A number of scandals have suggested they have good reason to be wary of.
Many charities have weak internal management and are not operating under established protocols, while the sector as a whole "has not developed a self-discipline mechanism," according to Li.
Although several existing laws and government regulations regulate charitable activities to some degree, they are out of date and inadequate given the growth of the sector, he said.
Since 2008, national lawmakers have tabled dozens of motions and proposals for enacting a charity law. The draft was submitted for the first reading at the bi-monthly session of the NPC Standing Committee in October and for a second reading two months later.
MORE QUALIFIED FOR PUBLIC FUNDRAISING
Currently, only a handful of charities are allowed to raise money from whoever they like, while the others are restricted to drawing on specific groups of donors.
The bill says legally-registered charities that have been operating for at least two years will be able to apply to the civil affairs department to be allowed to raise funds from the general public.