China tightens rules on private think tanks

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BEIJING, May 5 (Reuters) - China has ordered private think
tanks to register with the authorities, who will also keep tabs
on research activity, under new rules published by state media,
the ruling Communist Party's latest move to stamp its authority
on intellectual bodies.
    President Xi Jinping has overseen a drive to place the party
back at the centre of China's media, academia and charities,
while cracking down on civil society by detaining rights lawyers
and reining in independent research bodies and publications.
    Think tanks' objectives are to serve the Communist Party and
aid government decision-making, says a copy of the rules issued
jointly by nine government departments and released by the
official Xinhua news agency late on Thursday.
    Privately-run think tanks must register with the Ministry of
Civil Affairs and a professional supervisory unit, said the
document, which barred unregistered bodies from calling
themselves think tanks.
    "Possessing legal qualifications is an integral part of
new-style think tanks with Chinese characteristics," it added.
    Professional supervisory units should perform checks on
think tanks registered with them and report to the authorities
regulatory breaches such as unapproved foreign funding or
contact or failures to carry out "party building," it added.
    Think tanks looking to publish statistical analyses of
government data must first consult China's bureau of statistics,
under the new rules.
    Those that fail to release information in a timely way, or
to change leadership when ordered to do so by the Civil Affairs
Ministry, will be placed on a public list of "abnormal" social
enterprises, the rules say.
    However, the officially titled "Guidelines for strengthening
the building of new-style think tanks with Chinese
characteristics," did not incorporate a date, leaving unclear
whether they take immediate effect.
    There is no official figure for the number of think tanks in
China, but estimates range from 250 to 450 such groups.
    Last year, China introduced two laws requiring registration
by foreign non-government bodies and domestic charities, as well
as extra checks with authorities, in the name of regulating the
sector and protecting national security. [nL3N16842L]
    Foreign diplomats and rights activists have criticised the
laws as being designed to stifle civil society and shutter
groups considered a threat to party power.
    In January, authorities took down the website of the Unirule
Institute of Economics, a privately run think tank in Beijing
that advocates free market policies, along with 16 other sites,
citing "false" content and licensing issues, state media said at
the time.

 (Reporting by Christian Shepherd; Editing by Clarence
 ((; +86 10 66271281;))


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