A slew of crackdown on non-government organisations on the mainland in the past couple of years, culminating in Swedish NGO worker Peter Dahlin being paraded on state TV this week, has left many charity workers feeling jittery about their future. State media on Tuesday accused Peter Dahlin, 35, of setting up Chinese Urgent Action Working Group with rights lawyer Wang Quanzhang to carry out activities that “endanger state security”. It also accused the Hong Kong-registered group of receiving overseas funding to carry out “criminal activities” without stating which laws they broke. Some of the country’s most progressive, independent NGOs have been targets in the government’s latest crackdown on civil society. Although the authorities have always kept a close eye on the sector, critics say in the past couple of years, the crackdown has noticeably stepped up, with NGOs closed and their workers detained, arrested or jailed. READ MORE - Detained Swedish NGO worker Peter Dahlin’s colleague refutes accusation that his group endangered China’s security Guo Yushan, founder of the nongovernmental think tank Transition Institute, was held for nearly a year before he was released in September. His organisation, which conducted research on social and economic issues, was closed by the Beijing authorities in 2013. In September 2014, Liren, an NGO that had run two dozen rural libraries across China closed down, citing pressure from the local government. In March last year, five women activists who planned to demonstrate against sexual harassment on public transport were detained for more than a month. In June last year, Guo Bin and Yang Zhanging two activists who used to work for anti-discrimination NGO Beijing Yirenping were detained for “illegal business activities.” The Yirenping office was also raided and closed in March. Earlier this month, Chinese police formally arrested four labour activists on the charge of “disturbing social order”. State media accused them of “accepting financial support from overseas organisations” and “inciting workers to assemble a crowd and stir up trouble”. Critics also worry that a proposed law on the management of foreign NGOs, if enacted, would drive out many groups operating on the mainland and harm domestic non-government organisations that rely on them for funding and help. The law requires foreign NGOs to be registered with the police and insists that they “must not endanger China’s national unity and national security”. The bleak situation has made workers at independent NGOs unaffiliated to the government feeling despondent about their future. A worker at a domestic NGO who declined to be named for fear of reprisals, said government control and harassment had always been around butthe room for carrying out its birthright advocacy work has narrowed drastically in the past few years. And the situation hit rock bottom when they started detaining and arresting people in 2014. READ MORE - What China’s crackdown on lawyers says about authorities’ fear of burgeoning rights defence movement “In the past two years, people’s personal safety has become endangered,” he said. “The best response to this is to carry on as normal... but we’re mentally prepared for the worst.” His group, like many independent NGOs, cannot get government or domestic funding as their work does not go along with the government’s agenda so it has no choice but to rely on foreign funds. But the reliance on overseas funding places these groups in a “dangerous position” as they are vulnerable to be accused of accept foreign money to “destabilise” the country, as in Dahlin’s case, said Professor Chan Kin-Man, a sociologist at Chinese University of Hong Kong. “You want to advocate for social and policy changes, so you bring up the shortcomings and this enables them to accuse you of subversion,” Chan said. Another former worker for a foreign NGO said the “grey area” which existed before the Xi Jinping administration has been cracked down on and now “the space has markedly tightened and doing meaningful NGO work in China is getting more and more difficult .” “Several years ago, they were mainly just harassing NGOs, but now, they want to completely pull them out from the roots,” said a veteran NGO worker, whose group has been closed down. As of 2013, there were around 547,000 registered civil groups in China, of which most were government-affiliated groups.