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The Spanish NGO Safeguard Defenders claims on their website in different languages to have been founded in 2016.

Safeguard Defenders is a human rights NGO founded in late 2016 [...]

The foundation for Safeguard Defenders was laid in 2016, and was publicly launched in 2017.

According to the official registration papers it was only founded in June 2019.

La Fundación anteriormente citada fue constituida por don Peter Jesper Dahlin [...] el 13 de junio de 2019 con el número 767 de protocolo.

Is the organization lying about their foundation date, or is there some other explanation? For example, was there a precursory organization of the same name existing unofficially outside Spain?

PS: I do not doubt that China is prosecuting its citizens abroad, and it is not the aim of my questions to defend the Chinese government.

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This question appears to be based on a simple misunderstanding of definitions.

The founding of an organisation, and the establishment of a foundation under Spanish Law are two different things.

Collins English Dictionary defines founding as "relating to the starting of a particular institution or organization."

The founding of the organisation was in 2016, and by 2017 they had created their website. The Internet Archive started crawling it in November 2017. That version includes a blog entry dated August 1, 2017 announcing the launch of Safeguard Defenders.

The registration of the organisation as a foundation in Spain's Registro de Fundaciones (Registry of Foundations) came in mid-2019, according to the link you provided.

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