Dis­abil­i­ties bring le­gal dif­fi­cul­ties

Lim­ited knowl­edge, costs and low ac­ces­si­bil­ity make jus­tice sys­tem hard for the hand­i­capped

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - CHINA - By CHEN MENGWEI chen­meng­wei@ chi­nadaily.com.cn

A new China re­port by the United Na­tions dove into an area rarely dis­cussed in the life of the na­tion’s 85 mil­lion per­sons with dis­abil­i­ties: How freely can they nav­i­gate the coun­try’s ju­di­cial sys­tem?

The re­search, con­ducted by the United Na­tions De­vel­op­ment Pro­gramme and Wuhan Univer­sity’s Pub­lic In­ter­est and De­vel­op­ment Law In­sti­tute, was re­leased on Fri­day, one day ahead of the In­ter­na­tional Day of Per­sons with Dis­abil­i­ties, which pro­motes dig­nity, rights and well-be­ing for the group.

It ad­dressed a long list of ex­ist­ing chal­lenges, in­clud­ing lim­ited le­gal knowl­edge that hin­ders them from us­ing le­gal ser­vices when their rights are in­fringed, the high ex­penses of cur­rent le­gal ser­vices, the lack of in­for­ma­tion about free le­gal aid ser­vices, and not enough ac­ces­si­bil­ity and ac­com­mo­da­tion through­out the ju­di­cial process.

The re­searchers found that though lawyers and le­gal ser­vice work­ers play a key role in pro­vid­ing le­gal aid ser­vices to peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties, their knowl­edge and aware­ness about dis­abil­ity and equal­ity should be im­proved.

They also saw the “great po­ten­tial” of lo­cal staff at dis-


Ahead­ofthe In­ter­na­tion­alDay­ofPer­son­swith Dis­abil­i­ties,Ni­cholasRosellini, the­newlyap­point­edUNRes­i­dent Co­or­di­na­torandUNDPRes­i­dent Rep­re­sen­ta­tiveinChina,spoke with­Chi­naDaily’sChenMeng­wei.

How do you see China’s progress in giv­ing ac­cess to jus­tice for peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties?

abled per­sons’ fed­er­a­tions be­com­ing grass­roots le­gal ad­vo­cates, a group they be­lieve could di­rectly im­prove the qual­ity of le­gal ser­vices that peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties can en­joy.

Wu Di, the project’s leader from the UNDP, said work­ing on the pro­gram has changed her way of un­der­stand­ing per­sons with dis­abil­i­ties. By pre­sent­ing the re­port to the pub­lic, she hoped to raise aware­ness and even­tu­ally bring some changes to bet­ter ev­ery­one’s life.

Yet the lack of ac­cess to le­gal ser­vices may be a prob­lem that puz­zles many, with or with­out dis­abil­i­ties.

“Around 6 mil­lion cases are re­ported to the po­lice ev­ery year, but only 1 mil­lion pro­ceed to the next step. The le­gal re­sources are far from enough,” said Wang Minyuan, a le­gal re­searcher at the Chi­nese Academy of So­cial Sciences.

In Septem­ber, the Chi­nese govern­ment re­leased an ac­tion plan to im­prove the liv­ing con­di­tions of per­sons with dis­abil­i­ties, with a par­tic­u­lar fo­cus on in­di­vid­u­als in poor ru­ral ar­eas.

China’s new guide­line on ac­cel­er­at­ing the process to­ward mod­est pros­per­ity in the 13th Five-Year Plan (201620) has out­lined ac­tion to en­sure that per­sons with dis­abil­i­ties en­joy the same liveli­hood and pub­lic ser­vices.

For in­stance, by 2020, all regis­tered per­sons with dis­abil­i­ties from poor fam­i­lies in ru­ral ar­eas must be lifted out of poverty. The pro­por­tion of chil­dren with dis­abil­i­ties re­ceiv­ing com­pul­sory ed­u­ca­tion must reach 95 per­cent by 2020.

Ni­cholas Rosellini, the UN res­i­dent co­or­di­na­tor in China, said the Chi­nese govern­ment’s re­cent ac­tions are “wel­come steps to­ward main­stream­ing dis­abil­ity in de­vel­op­ment and so­ci­ety”. He pro­posed that the UN, the China Dis­abled Per­sons’ Fed­er­a­tion and in­di­vid­u­als should play an im­por­tant role in pro­mot­ing the rights of per­sons with dis­abil­i­ties and en­sur­ing ac­count­abil­ity.

To­day, more than 1 bil­lion peo­ple, or ap­prox­i­mately 15 per­cent of the world’s pop­u­la­tion, live with some form of dis­abil­ity. More than 100 mil­lion of them are chil­dren, who are al­most four times more likely to ex­pe­ri­ence vi­o­lence than non-dis­abled chil­dren, ac­cord­ing to Marielza Oliveira, direc­tor and representative of the UNESCO Bei­jing of­fice.

UN Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral Ban Ki Moon said in Bei­jing in July that “per­sons with dis­abil­i­ties must be­come an in­te­gral part of na­tional, re­gional and global think­ing and plan­ning, not only in ar­eas that specif­i­cally con­cern them, but in de­ci­sions that af­fect ev­ery­one”.


Edi­tor’s Note:

One ma­jor progress in China on im­prov­ing ac­cess to jus­tice for per­sons with dis­abil­i­ties is the es­tab­lish­ment of a com­pre­hen­sive na­tional le­gal aid sys­tem to guar­an­tee ba­sic le­gal ser­vices to vul­ner­a­ble cit­i­zens. Per­sons with dis­abil­i­ties have been a pri­mary tar­get group of le­gal aid since the pro­mul­ga­tion of the Le­gal Aid Reg­u­la­tions in 2003.

The sys­tem has a broad net­work of le­gal aid sta­tions na­tion­ally cov­er­ing more than 40,000 coun­ties and towns. By the end of 2015, nearly 3,000 le­gal aid work­sta­tions specif­i­cally tar­get­ing per­sons with dis­abil­i­ties were set up in China.

In a re­cent study on ac­cess to jus­tice for per­sons with dis­abil­i­ties in China, the UNDP found that lo­cal gov­ern­ments and dis­abled per­son’s fed­er­a­tions in many re­gions have de­vel­oped valu­able

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