A Great Leap Forward or Backward for China

The Times questions what impact the Paralympics will have on disability rights in China:

In the Olympics ceremony, the 56 children who organisers claimed came from the 56 ethnic groups in China were from the dominant Han group. How will the complexities of spinal cord injuries, amputations, cerebral palsy sufferers, blindness and “les autres”, the five broad classes of the Paralympics, be portrayed?

Organisers said that while the Olympics opening ceremony featured the idea of harmony, the Paralympics ceremony would emphasise humanitarian concerns, hope and warmth.

Zhang Yimou, the acclaimed film-maker who directed the Olympics opening ceremony, is in charge of the Paralympics ceremony as well. Four hundred deaf girls will perform a sign-language dance called “Hello, Stars” and more than 2,000 young kung fu students will perform an animated robot dance.

In the Washington Post, Maureen Fan writes on this topic:

China is trumpeting the Paralympics as a way to improve awareness and better integrate its more than 83 million disabled citizens, almost a million of whom live in Beijing. But the reality is that China’s disabled are largely invisible, dissuaded from going out in public by a lack of physical access, a deficit of jobs and routine discrimination.

“I need someone to lift me into a taxi and fold the wheelchair, or carry me on his back onto a bus,” said Zhi Fumao, 48, whose legs were paralyzed in a mining accident a few years ago. “Public toilets have no arm rests; I can’t squat.”

Every city in the world could improve its facilities for the disabled, but in China, a traditional respect for the elderly and the weak has been eroded by Communist political campaigns and an overall lack of awareness of civil rights, according to advocates for the disabled.

In interviews with scores of people disabled by on-the-job accidents, car accidents, and diseases that in other countries would be curable, most said there was little they could do.


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