COMMITTEE ON RIGHTS OF PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES CONSIDERS INITIAL REPORT OF CHINA
19 September 2012
The Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities today completed its consideration of the initial report of China on its implementation of the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Presenting the report, Naikun Wang, Secretary-General of the State Council Working Committee on Disability, said that China had taken legislative and other measures to promote and protect the rights of persons with disabilities in a number of areas, including education, employment and medical care. The legislative system was being improved and China, including the Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong and Macao, had worked to implement the relevant laws and policies. China still faced significant challenges in its efforts to improve the situation of persons with disabilities, but had identified specific goals, such as providing rehabilitation services to persons with disabilities and ensuring that persons with disabilities had access to employment and vocational training.
During the dialogue Committee Experts asked questions about the implementation of the Convention in relation to groups of persons with disabilities in rural areas, the participation of persons with disabilities in legislative reforms and policy making, the education of children with disabilities, and the screening and surveillance techniques which were reportedly used to promote the mental health of the Chinese population. Matters of adoption, abandoned children and exploitation of persons with disabilities in the labour force were also raised.
In concluding remarks, Ms. Wang thanked the Committee and welcomed their constructive recommendations, so long as they were in the spirit of the Convention. China still had a long way to go in terms of protecting the rights and interests of persons with disabilities. It would continue to strengthen its co-operation with the Committee and invited its members to visit China so that they could build a trusting relationship and help the country to achieve its goals.
Mr. McCallum, Committee Chairperson, speaking in initial concluding remarks, thanked the delegation for their interactive dialogue, which he said had gone smoothly, and also thanked the delegation and the non-governmental organization representatives for travelling a long way to be present at the meeting.
The Delegation of China included representatives from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Labour and Welfare Bureau of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, the Social Welfare Bureau of Macao Special Administrative Region, the State Council Working Committee on Disability, the National People’s Congress, the Supreme People’s Court, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Civil Affairs and the Ministry of Public Security and the Permanent Mission of China to the United National Office at Geneva.
The next public meeting of the Committee will take place at 3 p.m. when it will consider the initial report of Argentina (CRPD/C/ARG/1).
Statement by Committee Chairperson
RONALD MCCALLUM, Committee Chairperson, said that the Committee was honoured to engage in an interactive dialogue with the world’s most populous nation, China. He also congratulated China on its superb performance at the recent London Paralympic Games. The Chairperson announced that today's public meeting was being webcast live, and could be watched via the following link: http://www.treatybodywebcast.org.
Report of China
The initial report of China can be read via the following links: of China CRPD/C/CHN/1, of the Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong CRPD/C/CHN-HKG/1 and of the Special Administrative Region of Macao CRPD/C/CGB-MAC/1.
Presentation of the Report
NAIKUN WANG, Secretary-General of the State Council Working Committee on Disability, said that since it ratified the Convention China had fulfilled its obligations by taking legislative and other measures to promote and protect the rights of persons with disabilities. In 2008 China and the various autonomous regions revised their laws on the protection of persons with disabilities to be in line with the principles and spirit of the Convention. Other reforms had been implemented in a number of areas, including education, employment and healthcare. The legislative system was being improved and perfected and China was working to implement the relevant laws and policies. In addition to establishing new policies and protecting the interests of people with disabilities, China had identified specific goals, such as providing rehabilitation services to persons with disabilities, creating jobs and ensuring that persons with disabilities had access to employment and vocational training. There had been improvement in the conditions for persons with disabilities and with severe disabilities who took part in insurance schemes. The social security system for children with disabilities had also been upgraded. Community-based rehabilitation services were in place and new rehabilitation stations had been established.
In the field of employment, China had taken measures to ensure the stability of employment of persons with disabilities despite the global financial crisis. The Government had made plans to alleviate the living conditions of persons with disabilities living in rural areas. China had actively engaged in international co-operation, which was an important obligation of States parties. Nevertheless, Ms. Wang acknowledged that China still faced significant challenges in its efforts to improve the situation of persons with disabilities. It was ready to make sustained and hard efforts in order to continue fully to implement the Convention and to protect the social and cultural rights of persons with disabilities in accordance with the law. She thanked the Committee for its support to the work of the Chinese delegation and said that the delegation had taken into consideration the comments of non-governmental organizations.
Regarding the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, Ms. Wang said it was fully committed to promoting and protecting the equal enjoyment of human rights and the fundamental freedom by all persons with disabilities. Hong Kong had committed a number of resources to implementing and to promoting public awareness of the Convention. It was also encouraging citizens with disabilities to participate in community activities so that they would better integrate in the community, and it had committed significant funds to improving access to employment for persons with disabilities. Hong Kong reaffirmed its strong commitment to honouring their local obligations under the Convention.
Regarding the Macao Special Administrative Region, Ms. Wang said it had set up a Commission to assist the Government in the design, co-ordination and supervision of policies relating to the Convention. Macao was extremely attentive to the right to education of children with disabilities. In addition to State school, privately owned special schools also provided services to children with disabilities. Regarding employment, the Labour Affairs Bureau had set up a Special Group whose aim was to help integrate persons with disabilities in the local job market. Macao remained fully committed to fulfilling its obligations under the Convention.
Questions from the Experts
HYUNG SHIK KIM, Committee Expert acting as Country Rapporteur for China, welcomed the delegation and said that China had played a critical role in the process of negotiating the Convention by adopting the Beijing Declaration. China had also been one of the first countries to ratify the Convention. Not only had China made an important contribution to the adoption of the Convention but it had also ensured that the rights of Chinese persons with disabilities had been incorporated into the relevant national mechanisms. Explaining the Committee’s method of work, he said that they had prepared a number of questions to be posed to the delegation. Most of the issues had arisen from conflicts between traditional work models and the right model for persons with disabilities.
The Committee acknowledged that global attention had been paid to human rights issues and thanked the non-governmental organizations which had submitted a number of reports drawing attention to some of the flaws in the implementation of the Convention. The Committee was keen to be informed about overall progress made by China and the implementation of the Convention in relation to groups of persons with disabilities in rural areas. The Rapporteur added that several European countries were known for prioritizing disability-inclusive development and wanted to know in what way persons with disabilities in China could be part of the development process.
An Expert congratulated China on sending such a large delegation to Geneva, but expressed concern at the terminology employed in reference to persons with disabilities. What was China doing to give impetus to the process of harmonization, especially in terms using appropriate terminology? How did China gather information about persons with disabilities in the country? Did China plan to ratify the Optional Protocol of the Convention, as 90 Member States had already done so?
Another Expert noted that China had included in its report information on the most vulnerable groups of persons with disabilities, such as persons with intellectual disabilities and persons with mental impairments, for which he commended the State party. He asked what measures China had adopted to ensure that the most vulnerable groups among persons with disabilities were involved and consulted with in legislative reforms and policy making? Also, what measures had China taken to ensure barrier-free access to disability certification?
An Expert acknowledged the additional challenges facing such a large country as China and asked who the definition of persons with disabilities covered. Did it cover persons with a disability certificate or persons who did not have a certificate but were in need of protection? He also wanted to know whether relatives of persons with disabilities were protected from discrimination in Chinese legislation.
Reasonable accommodation was one of the key issues of the Convention, an Expert commented, and the Convention included a clear definition, although a number of definitions existed. Were there any cases where a person in need of sign language interpretation might be denied that right if that was not considered to be reasonable accommodation?
Turning to the availability of information regarding the draft regulations which were being implemented, an Expert expressed the hope that more statistics and information could be provided. The Chinese people and the rest of world needed to have a clearer idea of the exact figures and statistics concerning persons with disabilities in China. Could the delegation elaborate on the methods employed in gathering statistics for such a sizeable population? Regarding Macao, an Expert asked what efforts had been made to bring the concept of indirect discrimination into the legislation there
Response by the Delegation
The Head of Delegation thanked the Committee for its questions. The delegation said that it welcomed efforts by the World Health Organization in classifying data about persons with disabilities and said that China worked closely with the World Health Organization. Nevertheless, it acknowledged that in certain cases the data available to the Government did not coincide with that released by international organizations.
Regarding challenges faced by persons with mental impairment, the delegation said that a voluntary service and organization to support those persons and their relatives was in operation, and its aim was to provide assistance to persons with mental and psychosocial disabilities. It also clarified that disabilities caused by industrial injuries met the criteria for certification.
Concerning ratification of the Optional Protocol of the Convention, the delegation said that it supported international co-operation in the field of protecting the rights of persons with disabilities and that it had taken note that ninety countries had ratified the Optional Protocol. China believed that the protection of human rights should rely on the efforts of the Government concerned. China had reservations about ratifying the Optional Protocol but was studying the matter.
Hong Kong had set up a number of dedicated working groups and advisory committees whose job was to examine specific areas of concern to persons with disabilities. It had also put in place a range of home-based or community-based support services for persons with disabilities, such as day care and training for persons with severe intellectual and physical disabilities.
Macao valued the input of non-governmental organizations and in 2008 it established a bureau whose membership included persons with disabilities. International conventions took immediate effect in domestic law and no further action was needed in that respect. Nevertheless, specific provisions in the law clearly prohibited discrimination against persons with disabilities.
The delegation explained that the gathering of statistics on persons with disabilities was a major and complicated task, in which the assistance of non-governmental organizations was needed and much valued. Concerning the certification of persons with disabilities, it was clarified that in order to get a disability certificate a person could go through a medical assessment, the aim of which was to prevent abuse of benefits available to persons with disabilities, but it was not a compulsory procedure.
Non-governmental organizations were free to submit their views to the Government. Concerning the legislative process on how to solicit the input of persons with disabilities, the delegation explained that it was primarily done directly through public forums but there were several other channels through which members of the public could submit their views. A delegate stressed that the drafting of laws was a public procedure, with the exception of State secrets.
Concerning the issue of reasonable accommodation, the delegation acknowledged that the term was open to different interpretations but also clarified that China endorsed the provisions of the Convention according to which reasonable accommodation was based on conditions specific to each country. In addition, the country’s legislation had specific provisions to ensure equal participation of persons with disabilities in society.
Courts in China had implemented the use of barrier-free facilities to allow full access to persons with disabilities, such as sign language interpretation and subtitle captioning. Also, courts provided appropriate training to personnel so as to increase assistance to persons with disabilities and also allowed such persons to be accompanied by one or two assistants.
Questions from the Delegation
Concerning women, an Expert noted the progress that had been made with respect to the situation of women with disabilities but expressed concern at the high number of incidents reported in China of violence against women with disabilities. Did the Government have any plans to tackle such violence? Did Hong Kong have plans to include a representative of women with disabilities in its Commission?
Regarding children, the Expert expressed concern that 90 per cent of abandoned children were children with disabilities, that over 37 per cent of children with disabilities were not enrolled in school, and that over 60 per cent of children with disabilities had never received any support or services. Another Expert asked what measures were being taken by the State party to place children with disabilities in host families within their community and not in institutions. Also, could the delegation comment on reports that persons with disabilities who had gone to China to adopt a child of Chinese nationality had been denied the right to do so purely because they were a person with a disability?
Would China explicitly prohibit the use by adults of corporal punishment for children with disabilities? The Expert was alarmed at reports that boys with cognitive disabilities in rural areas had been abducted, used as slave labourers in mines and then killed in staged accidents so that compensation could be claimed by mine owners. The Committee was concerned at reports that persons with disabilities were subjected to cruel treatment and arbitrary detention in mental health institutions.
Another Expert pointed out that in the report submitted by China no mention was made of measures to provide care or prevent incidents involving persons with disabilities in risk or humanitarian situations. Was there a policy or a plan to provide the necessary support and care for persons with disabilities in such emergencies?
More information was requested on monitoring implementation of mechanisms and sanctions against those who did not apply the accessibility standard mentioned in China’s report. Could the delegation provide further information on how Macao dealt with the removal of existing architectural barriers?
Regarding awareness-raising campaigns, the delegation was asked whether there were any policies drawing attention to the fact that disabilities were not a health issue but rather a life condition? Also, were any measures taken to ensure that persons with disabilities fully enjoyed the right to a due process in civil and criminal cases? What measures had been taken to tackle the issue of presenting disabilities as a social rather than as a medical issue?
Were there any programmes aimed at breaking down physical barriers in the daily life of persons with disabilities, for example facilitating access to cash dispensing machines and building street ramps for persons in wheelchairs? Moreover, what measures had China adopted or was planning to adopt to ensure that an increasing number of deaf persons could access sign language interpretation without barriers or restrictions? Was China taking any steps to facilitate the rehabilitation of persons with disabilities and facilitate access to health services?
Persons with psychosocial disabilities should not be portrayed as persons who were mentally ill, an Expert said, although they should have access to health services if they were in need of them. Also, were there any concrete plans in Hong Kong to change the mental health ordinance in order to bring it into compliance with the Convention and its norms? Were persons with psychosocial disabilities being consulted about the process?
Response by the Delegation
Regarding education for children with disabilities, the Delegation said that education was a basic method to promote the all-round development of persons with disabilities and their inclusion in society and that China had always attached great importance to education. China had taken a multi-layered approach to ensure that children with disabilities had the opportunity to receive education on an equal basis. All primary and secondary schools had the capacity to receive children with disabilities. Also, special schools provided education to children with severe disabilities. In addition, there was a provision for teachers to visit children’s homes if needed.
Concerning the State secrets law, in 2010 China had amended the State secrets law and had greatly reduced the scope of issues covered by that law. Regarding disclosure of information, in most areas China published official statistics unless the level of economic development did not allow collection of information or the information had been collected by non-official bodies, in which case it was beyond the control of the Government to make that information available to the general public. There were strict regulations governing the disclosure of information by Government officials. If citizens needed specific information for issues in which they were directly involved or which were of interest to the general public then they could either access that information from the appropriate official websites or apply for the disclosure of information which could be made public.
In the past few years China had implemented poverty alleviation programmes with great success. Regarding persons with disabilities in particular, the aim was to improve the capacity of those persons and to facilitate their inclusion in development. For example, loans at low rates were granted to persons with disabilities and practical or technical training was also provided to them so they could set up and run their own business or get involved in farming and other similar activities. The issue of the work of persons with disabilities and how they could gain autonomy and be included in the community had been raised by China at a recent Asia-Pacific conference, where a fruitful exchange of views with other delegations had taken place.
The promotion of the participation of persons with disabilities in public affairs was an important matter. China attached great importance to the construction of organizations for persons with disabilities to facilitate their participation in decision-making processes. A five-year development programme for socio-economic development was currently being implemented. Associations for persons with disabilities and their friends and families participated in the formulation of development plans and in the monitoring mechanisms for the implementation of the Convention. Over 4,000 persons with disabilities or family members or friends of persons with disabilities were members of the National People’s Congress and provided an important channel for suggestions to governmental bodies. The Social Welfare Bureau had co-operated with non-governmental organizations to recruit sign language interpreters who would provide a 24-hour service to persons with special needs.
China was strongly opposed to violence against children and women and through relevant legislative measures endeavoured to eliminate the phenomenon. Discrimination on the basis of gender or disabilities was prohibited by law. It was also prohibited to abandon persons with disabilities or to subject children with disabilities to cruel treatment. Discrimination on the basis of age, disease or disability was prohibited by law and punishable. Corporal punishment in schools and inhumane or cruel treatment of children was also prohibited by law.
China had established working mechanisms against violence across regions. A hotline and mobile message service had also been set up to facilitate reporting incidents of domestic violence. There were awareness-raising programmes to combat domestic violence. China also recognized the right of women with disabilities to have children. Forced sterilization of intellectually challenged women was forbidden and there severe punishments for such incidents.
China had contingency plans for emergency situations involving persons with disabilities so those people could be evacuated quickly. Training was also provided to the families of persons with disabilities to help them deal with emergency situations. Timely treatment was provided to persons with disabilities who may have been injured in emergency situations.
In recent years accessibility construction had made great progress in China and had become part of people’s daily lives. Visits, seminars, the solicitation of ideas through internet and listening to the suggestions of social bodies had all helped the Government to take specific implementation measures in that area. The Government, through its competent departments, had taken concrete action to implement regulations for construction development. In addition, there were local regulations which had specific provisions in place to build larger barrier-free facilities. The issue of facilities which could not be used because they were in need of maintenance was being examined.
In answer to the question about the mental health ordinance in Hong Kong, a delegate confirmed that the ordinance was under review and Hong Kong would consider any need to amend the ordinance, taking into account local circumstances with a view to addressing the needs of persons with psychological disabilities. Macao had developed various barrier-free facilities in recent years that took into account the safety of persons with disabilities. Road construction had been improved and public areas and tourist sites had been adapted to the needs of persons with disabilities. Attention was now being paid to pedestrian crossings.
Follow-up questions by Experts
Concern was expressed by an Expert at reports in the press about persons with disabilities working in degrading, abusive and exploitive conditions. She requested clear figures on the number of person who had been rescued from forced labour situations and information on any sanctions imposed on the perpetrators. Information about employment and unemployment rates in China was also requested. Regarding employment, what policies were being adopted to eliminate “productivity assessment” which was detrimental to persons in the labour force who had disabilities? Also, did regulations secure the health of employees, including persons with disabilities, regardless of where they were employed?
The Committee remained gravely concerned by the seriousness of the situation concerning abandoned children with disabilities, whom an Expert said she had seen first-hand on a recent visit to China. What efforts were being made to ensure that children with disabilities, who had been abandoned in special institutions, had the chance to have a family? The Expert was aware that many persons outside China wanted to adopt those children with disabilities but there were clear restrictions in that respect. Were those children receiving appropriate care and education in the facilities where they had been placed?
An Expert raised the case of the blind Chinese lawyer Chen Guan Chang who had left Beijing and now lived in New York, and wanted to know how the investigations into his allegations of discrimination were proceeding. On a separate topic, was there a sign language that was specifically Chinese and legally or constitutionally recognized and, if so, how many deaf Chinese persons used that?
Did persons with disabilities have the right to vote? Did China have any plans to move away from the medical model towards a rights-based approach? What possibilities there were for persons with disabilities to participate in the monitoring mechanisms of the Convention to ensure compliance with the Convention?
An Expert expressed concern at the screening and surveillance techniques which were used to promote the mental health of the Chinese population and asked for clarification. What measures were taken by China to ensure that the right to information and to health in general of persons living with HIV/AIDS was realized?
Concerning education, what kind of qualifications did teachers have to be able to teach children with disabilities in inclusive settings in mainstream schools? How many pupils were educated in inclusive (mainstream) education and how many were in special institutions?
Response by the Delegation
According to the law, all citizens enjoyed equal rights of civil acts. The People’s Court was there to guarantee and protect the rights of persons in proceedings. China had adopted practical measures such as the use of sign language interpretation, legal aids and other assistance in order to protect the rights and interests of persons with disabilities. In 2013 a review would be carried out of the legal aid and services to persons with disabilities and in 2015 a final review and inspection would be carried out on the legal aid programme for persons with disabilities.
China publicized information concerning persons with disabilities and to that end it made use of traditional mass media and new social media and had taken a number of other awareness-raising initiatives. Also, an effort was being made to remove discrimination against persons with disabilities across the country. Regarding social activities, efforts were made to improve society’s respect towards and care of persons with disabilities and to give them an opportunity to showcase their talents.
There were 40,000 welfare agencies across the country which worked to provide social welfare to all age categories of persons with disabilities. Particular importance was attached to the inclusion of persons with disabilities in family and community life. China was committed to helping children with disabilities have sound physical and psychological development.
There were specific provisions to adopt children with disabilities, according to the adoption law. More than 10,000 children had been adopted by families from European and North American countries, with which China had effective co-operation. Specific factors were taken into consideration in such cases, such as the physical and economic condition and the educational level and age of the prospective adoptive parents.
The delegation acknowledged that China, as a populous nation, faced significant challenges in combating forced labour and illegal employment. In that respect, China had improved its law on employment and had taken a series of measures to improve the comprehensive supervision of employment and to prevent the exploitation, illegal confinement or cruel or inhumane treatment of persons with disabilities in employment. Forcing persons to work was a crime punishable by law with imprisonment and a fine. Individuals had been prosecuted for cases of involuntary employment or staged accidents of persons with disabilities so that insurance could be claimed by their employers.
The unemployment rate for persons with disabilities which the Committee had was the registered rate provided by employment agencies and did not reflect the real situation. In reality, it was not accurate to say that over 90 per cent of persons with disabilities were unemployed.
Regarding persons with psychosocial disabilities, 90 per cent of their treatment was paid for by the Government. In cases where additional treatment was required, the persons concerned had the right to claim medical expenses. The Ministry of Health was working to improve the services available to persons with psychosocial disabilities. Only persons with severe mental disorders who had harmed themselves and were likely to do so again, or harm others, were hospitalized involuntarily in accordance with the relevant law.
A person would be disqualified from being registered as an elector only if they were found under the mental health ordinance to be incapable, for reason of mental incapacity, of managing and administering their property and affairs. Relevant decisions were made by the court.
The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region had taken concrete steps to improve the living conditions and quality of life for persons with disabilities and to facilitate their access to work, employment and medical care. In addition, employees with disabilities enjoyed the same statutory minimum wage protection and had the right to opt for a productivity assessment.
All permanent residents of China above the age of 18 had the right to vote and be elected. There had only been three cases of persons who had been excluded. No discrimination was made against persons with disabilities and the election law provided that persons with disabilities, if necessary, could be accompanied in the voting procedure, a right which was not enjoyed by other citizens.
Concerning the case of blind Chinese citizen Chen Guan Chang, China had closely followed the law, according to which all citizens’ rights were protected. At the same time, citizens were expected to abide by the law. Upon release from jail in 2009, he had fully enjoyed his rights and had received a special treatment as a person with disabilities. His allegations were being investigated in accordance with the law.
Even though it was debatable whether persons living with HIV/AIDS were persons with disabilities, nevertheless it was stressed that those persons’ right to marriage, inheritance, election and access to medical care were guaranteed and that China did not discriminate against persons on the basis of their HIV status. The Government provided subsidies to persons living with HIV/AIDS.
NAIKUN WANG, Secretary-General of the State Council Working Committee on Disability, said that the Committee’s review was a valuable opportunity for China to advance its progress and the constructive recommendations of the Committee were welcome, so long as they were in the spirit of the Convention. They would be used as an important point of reference for China in developing effective strategies for the persons with disabilities. The improvement of the situation of the huge community of persons with disabilities was fundamentally dependent on the general development of the State. China still had a long way to go in terms of protecting the rights and interests of persons with disabilities. It would continue to strengthen its co-operation with the Committee and invited its members to visit China so that they could build a trusting relationship and help the country to achieve its goals.
RONALD MCCALLUM, Committee Chairperson, in initial concluding remarks, thanked the delegation for their interactive dialogue, which he said had gone smoothly, and also thanked the delegation and the non-governmental organization representatives for travelling a long way to be present at the meeting.
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