Event Report: Seminars on Systems/Policies concerning Survival "Disability/Society" No. 5 "Efforts concerning the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in China"

published: 2014-12-08

On October 20th (Mon.), the Research Center for Ars Vivendi, Ritsumeikan University organized in the Kinugasa Campus the fifth seminar in the “Systems and Policies concerning Survival: Disability and Society” series entitled “Efforts concerning the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in China”.

The seminar was planned as a part of the outreach activities of the project “Systems/Policies concerning Survival” implemented by the Center, which is an institution engaged in research of disability, aging, disease, and differences. The seminar was the fifth event of the series. This time we were pleased to have as our lecturers Mr. Fu Gaoshan and Mr. Cai Cong of the One Plus One Culture Development Center (hereinafter 'One Plus One'), and also Mr. Zhang Wei from the Enable Disability Studies Institute – three people who have played important roles in the implementation of the CRPD in China.

Firstly, Mr. Fu Gaoshan talked about the social position of people with disabilities (centering on visually impaired) in China, illustrating his points with stories of his own experiences. When he was a university student, Mr. Fu Gaoshan felt dissatisfied with the society, in which the blind could only find employment as masseurs, and found work in an organization for people with disabilities. The founder of the organization did not have a particular disability, and at the time the stance of the organization was based on a condescending 'let's help those weak and helpless people with disabilities' ethic, that is, looking down on people with disabilities'. In order to show that people with disabilities have abilities of their own, Mr. Fu Gaoshan was involved in the establishment of One Plus One which was led by people with disabilities themselves and started to support people with disabilities in their endeavors to brush up professional skills.

Next, Mr. Cai Cong made a presentation describing the role played by One Plus One Culture Development Center in the implementation of the CRPD in China. He made a particular emphasis on the problems, which arose from the relationship of the Center with the Chinese political system.

Lastly, Mr. Zhang Wei talked about the problems faced by persons with intellectual disabilities in China and described the points, which, in the light of the CRPD, can be perceived as violations. Mr. Zhang Wei is a lawyer and in his work has encountered cases of forced labor and other legal problems involving persons with intellectual disabilities. He also mentioned that he has participated in the establishment of 17 organizations of people with intellectual disabilities in China. Based on his experience in these activities, he made demands to the government at the time of implementation of the CRPD to deal with and solve such problems faced by people with disabilities as the lack of support to enable decision making by people with disabilities themselves, or the humiliating treatment they are subjected to in mental hospitals.

A number of questions from the audience were made regarding the Chinese political system and the disability movement. One was about the source of funds of One Plus One, and the presenters answered that the Center is mainly funded by the European Union's and other European foundations as well as the U.S.

In China, there are restrictions on freedom of assembly and freedom of association, and as formation of grassroots movements is against the law, every one of them is literally a do-or-die attempt. And this background made this research meeting on how a public-built and half privately operated organization is trying to create and operate a countrywide movement in China truly interesting.

(KIRIHARA Naoyuki)