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5,000 Township Businesses Closed for Causing Occupational Diseases
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China shut down over 5,000 township enterprises and rural self-employed businesses since August last year in a bid to protect peasant workers from occupational diseases. 


Nearly 3,000 others were ordered to suspend operation for overhaul, said Su Zhi, deputy director of the Law Enforcement and Supervision Department under China's Ministry of Health, at a press briefing in Beijing Friday.


China's township enterprises are an important sector that helps provide job opportunities for the country's superfluous labor forces in rural areas.


Statistics show that China has about 480 million rural laborers and by the end of 2003, nearly 135 million were transferred from farming to working in township enterprises.


However, as some local governments cared too much about economic growth and neglected the poor working conditions of certain township enterprises, employees frequently suffered risks of contracting occupational diseases, Su said.


To detect the potential risks for occupational diseases, nine Chinese departments, including the Health Ministry, the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Public Security, carried out a massive overhaul from August 2003 to March 2004, with special focus on the township enterprises and rural self-employed businesses.


The result revealed that about 57.5 percent of all the enterprises that have been inspected and tested failed to meet relevant standards, Su said.


Su said the nationwide inspection revealed a relatively clearer picture of the occupational diseases in China and a cooperative working mechanism among the nine departments has started taking form.


The key point is that the departments should improve cooperation and coordination and jointly explore a long-term effective working mechanism in order to protect the health of peasant workers, Su said.


(Xinhua News Agency May 15, 2004)

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