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Shenzhen Canyou Group Co's pavilion during a charity promotion fair in Shenzhen, in South China's Guangdong province. "Canyou" in Chinese means "friends of the disabled". About 90 percent of Canyou's employees are handicapped. [Yu Ge / For China Daily[
Shenzhen firm is so successful it went public on the stock market
It looks just like a normal IT company when you walk into Shenzhen Canyou Group Co - that is if you don't notice the wheelchairs next to employees' desks.
Luo Chun, a 24-year-old university graduate, used to work for a regular IT company but, because he is paralyzed from the waist down, he found he didn't fit into a company that has mostly able-bodied people. As a result, he resigned his job and found Canyou's recruitment information online.
"Canyou" in Chinese means "friends of the disabled". About 90 percent of Canyou's employees are handicapped. Luo has been working for the company for two months. He has been writing computer programs ever since he graduated with a major in computer science.
Zheng Weining was the founder of the company. He suffers from haemophilia and doctors told his family he wouldn't live past 50. Because of the impairment, he thought about suicide many times when he was young.
However, in the 1990s computers and the Internet changed his life. As someone who needs to have a blood transfusion at least twice a week, Zheng couldn't go to school and university like a normal person. But one day, he discovered the Internet could solve his problems.
He built a website for disabled people communicating online with his friends that ultimately led to the establishment of Canyou.
Now the company has about 3,760 employees, 1,200 of them based in Shenzhen. Half the costs, including accommodation, are met with welfare payments.
However, his goal is to reduce that figure significantly so his employees can have more contact with able-bodied people. According to Chinese law, a company with 25 percent disabled staff is considered to be a welfare company.
Also according to Chinese law, all enterprises should have a minimum of 1.5 percent disabled employees. However, most companies are just willing to pay out money rather than actually recruit disabled people.
Hai Jun, co-founder of the company and website, said the company only had seven employees in 2003. He used to own a small clinic but it was temporarily closed in 2003 because of the SARS disease outbreak. Consequently, he decided to leave his hometown and move to Shenzhen to work on Zheng's website.
Liu Hongtao, vice-president of ChinaNetCenter, said: "Traditional philanthropy involves donating money to a charitable fund but we want to help Canyou to grow and create a mutual benefit."
Huang Shalin, deputy general manager of CDN business unit department of ChinaNetCenter, said her company outsourced some projects to other companies. She said she was surprised to find Canyou did a better job than other companies. She added her company is now considering outsourcing official website page designs to Canyou.
The cooperation between ChinaNetCenter and Canyou can be traced back to about 10 years ago. Zheng was seeking an IT server for his company at the time. He spotted an advertisement that said ChinaNetCenter was offering servers in Shenzhen. Liu Chengyan, the founder of ChinaNetCenter, gave Zheng a free server when they met.
Thanks to the gift, Canyou is now listed on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange and has more than 2,000 customers, including Baidu.com and Sina.com.
Huang Jingbo, chairman of China Disabled Persons' Federation, said the development of work for Shenzhen's handicapped is leading other regions in China. Since 2000, the government has enforced a regulation regarding the employment of disabled people. Nonetheless, Huang said the main problem for the handicapped in Shenzhen remains employment.
"It's hard for them to fit in with able-bodied people even if they are given work in a regular company," Huang added.