White House sends tough message on NGOs as Xi Jinping visits

A top White House official hosted US non-governmental groups who face tough new Chinese security laws, a high-profile statement of concern as Xi Jinping arrived in the United States.

White House National Security Advisor Susan Rice met several representatives from among the universities, businesses and rights groups that would be forced to register and report to the Chinese security services if the draft law enters into force. “Today’s discussion focused on concerns that the draft legislation would further narrow space for civil society in China,” the White House said in a statement that came hours after the Chinese leader landed in the United States.

Sources familiar with Rice’s talks said it included some organisations that receive US government grants. The controversial draft law looks set to be yet another area of contention when Xi meets President Barack Obama at the White House on Friday for a summit designed to strengthen ties.

“I think the president will make that clear,” a senior administration official said, describing the draft law as “deeply troubling” and its impact “very unfortunate.” “We are going to find some opportunities to speak out on that issue and also find an opportunity to meet some of the stakeholders involved.” The Obama-Xi summit has already been beset by arguments over cyber hacking and China’s increasingly assertive land grabs in the South China Sea.

“Our concern with the law is profound,” said the official. “First of all it is very broad, it gives a huge role to the ministry of public security, not the ministry of civil affairs that used to manage these groups. “I have heard a number of these groups saying that they are having to question whether they will remain in China, whether they will curtail their activities in China or whether they will cancel plans to establish a presence in China.” The White House said the legislation could hinder services to the Chinese people and “constrain US-China people-to-people exchanges.”

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