The New Authoritarians’ Offensive Against Civil Society
Despite the recent growth of the nonprofit sector, freedom of association remains severely restricted in China. Domestic and foreign NGOs must register with the government, and they require the sponsorship of a government agency to do so. There is also a limit of one registered NGO per sector in each region.
Article 35 of the constitution guarantees the right to freedom of assembly, but Article 51 states that its exercise “may not infringe upon the interests of the state.” In practice, assembly rights are severely restricted. Permission to protest is required by law, but applications are almost always denied, and in some cases applicants have been arrested simply for lodging a request.
Independent trade unions are illegal, and enforcement of labour laws is poor. By law, all unions must belong to the state-controlled All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU), which functions more as an arm of the CCP used to control workers than as a genuine vehicle for representing their interests.