BEIJING is to reinforce control over grassroots organisations by drafting new laws to deal with growing social discontent. The importance of stability was highlighted by the Minister of Civic Affairs, Doje Cering, yesterday when he opened a national civil affairs conference in Beijing. Civil affairs in China are similar to social welfare in Western countries, covering areas such as unemployment, social insurance and public assistance. ''In the past five years, civic affairs work has become an important part of the Government's agenda. ''It is closely tied in with the country's reform and development, and has made a great contribution to social stability in the country,'' Doje Cering said. More than 300 delegates took part in the conference yesterday to discuss a national plan for China's social welfare strategy for the coming six years, according to Xinhua (the New China News Agency). It said the delegates would discuss a new law on the operation of lotteries, and a set of detailed regulations governing the formation of grassroots organisations in the country. In addition, the delegates would also discuss legislation concerning the settlement of demobilised servicemen, and the organisation of township governments and neighbourhood supervision units. Although gambling is outlawed in China, lotteries are popular in many Chinese cities and some operate in the name of charity. Doje Cering said these new laws were necessary to ''increase the authority and power'' of civic affairs departments. But human rights groups feared the new regulations would give Chinese Public Security officials unrestrained power in cracking down on anti-government bodies and underground church groups. For example, under the new regulations on the registration of social organisations, all social bodies would be forbidden to engage in ''unlawful'' activities and all unregistered organisations would be outlawed. Human rights observers also said the drafting of these new laws was worrying because the National People's Congress Standing Committee was already examining a new law on public security. It would give Chinese policemen unprecedented power to disband any organisations which failed to register with the Government. Meanwhile, the minister was quoted by Xinhua as admitting that soaring prices and lack of funding by the Government were restricting the work of his ministry. He also said as Chinese society became more competitive, more and more people would have to rely on the Government's assistance in order to maintain a decent living. He also complained that the ministry was having difficulties in finding jobs for demobilised servicemen, and handicapped people, because the state no longer enjoyed absolute command over the hiring and firing of workers. Inflation, which has jumped to more than 20 per cent in major cities this year, has become the No 1 headache of the Government. More and more peasants and unemployed workers are taking to the street to protest against what they see as the Government's poor handling of the economy.