SCMP: Guangdong shuts down at least seven labour NGOs (27-7-2012)

Guangdong shuts down at least seven labour NGOs
South China Morning Post  27-7-2012

Guangdong authorities have shut down at least seven Shenzhen non-governmental groups that advocate for the rights of migrant workers.

Veteran labour-rights activists have described the five-month crackdown as unprecedented.

Ironically, authorities have pledged that the province will be the mainland’s first to ease registration requirements for NGOs from July 1.

Several activists told the South China Morning Post that they were evicted from their offices after their landlords were pressured by officials who conducted frequent checks of the facilities.

Mainland labour-rights NGOs often report of harassment from the authorities, who fear that foreign-funded and lobbying groups could organise large-scale strikes, incite protests or trigger social unrest.

Zhang Zhiru , director of the Shenzhen Spring Breeze Labour Disputes Service Centre, said he had rented the seven NGO offices that were shut down.

They include the Yuandian Worker Service Centre, the Shenzhen Migrant Worker Centre, the Green Grass Worker Service Centre, the Times Female Worker Service Centre, the Little Grass Workers’ Home and another labour NGO in Longgang district that declined to be named.

Our office was the first to be closed in February, only three months after we moved to a new location in the outskirts of Baoan district, Zhang told the Post.

The landlord demolished our signboard and suspended our water and power supply even though we had signed a three-year contract and paid enough rent. It’s ironic that authorities said publicly that they would take a more open-minded approach to NGOs, and meanwhile they were conducting a widespread crackdown on us.

Zhang said his office mainly provided legal aid to migrant workers with labour disputes.

Chen Mao, an NGO worker with the 13-year-old Shenzhen Migrant Worker Centre, said he was shocked at the magnitude of the crackdown.

Our office was forced to shut down in May, he told the Post. In the past, most harassment and retaliation [against us] came from employers who were angry because of our work in upholding migrant workers’ rights. I have never seen such a large-scale clampdown from authorities in our centre’s history.

Chen, who petitioned Shenzhen authorities last month to find out why the closure was ordered, said his landlord had frequently been harassed by local officials since November. He would not speculate on the reasons behind the crackdown, but said he did not think it was because the authorities were afraid of social unrest sparked by migrant workers before the next party congress.

Shenzhen officials told me that all NGOs in the province are still required to find a government department to act as a sponsor before they are able to register. They said they had not received any orders from the provincial government to ease registration controls, he said.

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