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Crackdown on China workers' rights groups

BEIJING, Sept 10, 2012 (AFP) - Workers' rights groups in the southern Chinese manufacturing hub Shenzhen are being forcibly evicted from their offices, scholars have said in an open letter, urging an end to the crackdown.

Around 10 groups that offer help to the millions of migrant workers living and working in Shenzhen have suffered random inspections and evictions, some of which turned violent, said the letter seen by AFP on Monday.

"Police have failed to prevent labour organisations from being evicted from their offices for unknown reasons, sometimes even violently," said the letter signed by 20 scholars and sent to the city and provincial governments Sunday.

The Dagongzhe Migrant Worker Centre was one of the first to be caught in the crackdown, with workers evicted from their offices in July after the water and electricity supply to their office was shut off by local authorities.

Another, the Hand in Hand Workers' Home, was evicted from its offices on Sunday, while local government staff confiscated property belonging to a group called The Little Grass Workers' Home last month, staff there told AFP.

Both groups provided services including safety training, legal assistance and psychological counselling to factory workers in the city, whose vast factories are a magnet for workers across China.

"There has been a sustained campaign of harassment against NGOs in Shenzhen," said Geoffrey Crowthall, spokesperson for Hong Kong-based monitoring group China Labour Bulletin.

Crowthall said local government was involved in the moves against labour organisations in Shenzhen, which he called a "misguided attempt by the government to reorganise or reconfigure NGOs in the city".

None of the groups contacted by AFP was able to explain the crackdown, but some speculated that that the local office of China's only legal trade union, the All China Federation of China Trade Unions, saw them as competition.

Chinese workers are entitled to join the union, but its activities are tightly restricted by politicians and employers.

Calls to provincial government offices in Guangdong went unanswered Monday, while a spokesman for the Shenzhen city government said he was unaware of the open letter.


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