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May 26, 2015

Russia and China Clamp Down on Foreign Nonprofits

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed legislation over the weekend granting authorities the power to declare foreign-based or foreign-backed nonprofits "undesirable" and shut them down, The Wall Street Journal writes. The Journal also reports on new moves by China to target nongovernmental organizations with ties abroad that the Communist government increasingly views as a threat to its control.

The Russian measure, which quickly cleared parliament with little debate, allows for the closure of any foreign or international nonprofit as well as fines and jail time for violators. Supporters said it will prevent outside groups from fomenting an overthrow of the government. Rights groups said the law escalates a Kremlin crackdown on civil society and activism and that its vague definition of "undesirable" opens the door for harassment of critical organizations.

In China, authorities are considering a draft law that would place foreign nonprofits under the management of the Ministry of Public Security and contains language similar to that of concurrent national-security and antiterrorism proposals. Among other provisions, it would require groups from abroad to pay taxes and go through state agencies to hire staff and recruit volunteers, and gives police unchallenged authority to enter offices, seize documents, and examine bank accounts.