Living, Acting, and Experiencing Otherwise than We Do: Rethinking China?s Laws on the Protection of Persons with Disabilities*

Author:Jane Zhi
Position:J.D. Candidate, The University of Iowa College of Law, 2011
Pages:279-304
Living, Acting, and Experiencing Otherwise than We Do:
Rethinking China’s Laws on the Protection of Persons
with Disabilities*
Jane Zhi**
I. THE MODERN SLAVERY OF PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES IN CHINA ....... 280
II. BACKGROUND: CHINAS DISABLED COMMUNITY .................................... 282
A. Several Steps Forward: Chinese Government Actions ................... 284
1. China’s Disabled Persons’ Federation ..................................... 284
2. The Law of the People’s Republic of China Concerning the
Rights of Disabled Persons .......................................................... 285
3. Ratification of the United Nations Convention on the
Rights of Persons with Disabilities ............................................. 286
B. Still Left Behind ............................................................................... 287
III. THE MEDICAL MODEL OF DISABILITY .................................................. 289
A. The Medical Model in Action: China .............................................. 290
1. Welfare Institutions in China .................................................. 290
2. Treatment and Prevention ....................................................... 292
B. The Medical Model of Disability Reflected in the Chinese
Language .......................................................................................... 294
IV. THE SOCIAL MODEL OF DISABILITY ...................................................... 295
A. The Need for a Social Model............................................................ 296
B. The Social Model of Disability in Action: The United States
Martha’s Vineyard ........................................................................... 297
V. RETHINKING CHINAS LAWS ................................................................... 298
A. Who is Considered Disabled? .......................................................... 298
B. Physical/Environmental Barriers .................................................. 300
C. Mental/Attitudinal Barriers ........................................................... 301
D. The New Beijing: Hope Yet? ............................................................ 302
* The title of this Note was inspired by a quote by the 19th Century philosopher Friedrich
Nietzsche. See infra note 72.
** J.D. Candidate, The University of Iowa College of Law, 2011; B.A., University of California,
Berkeley, 2008. I would like to express my sincere gratitude to Marsha Saxton, Stephen
Rosenbaum, William Leiner, and Eve Hill for their guidance and mentorship. I also want to
thank Benxin Zhi and Guirong Sun: my parents, my lucky charms.
280 TRANSNATIONAL LAW & CONTEMPORARY PROBLEMS [Vol. 20:279
VI. CONCLUSION ......................................................................................... 303
I. THE MODERN SLAVERY OF PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES IN CHINA
In April 2009, police in Anhui Province, China, found and released thirty-
two persons with mental disabilities enslaved at a brick-making factory.1
During the raid, police arrested ten individuals in connection with beating
and imprisoning the persons with disabilities.2 A taxi driver had picked up
the victims from the street and lured them in with enticements of work, food,
and lodging.3 The taxi driver then sold the victims to the owner of the brick
kiln for less than fifty dollars a person.4 Once they arrived at the factory in
Jieshou City, they were forced to work more than ten hours a day without
pay and given only steamed dough for sustenance.5
In a similar situation in 2008, Chinese police discovered and released
thirty-three persons with mental disabilities held and forced to work at
construction sites. 6 The police found them held in a crowded room with
nothing more than straw mattresses and tattered blankets. 7 Like the victims
at the brick factory in Jieshou City, these individuals had been tricked into
cars with offers of work at a train station in Harbin. 8 Each day, the enslavers
transported the victims to construction sites where they performed hard labor
while given little to eat, often scraps left over from hotels.9
Still, other Chinese persons with disabilities are enslaved on busy city
streets in plain view. Parents routinely sell their children with disabilities to
racketeers in Beijing, where the children are forced to go out and beg for
money that is later handed over to their keepers.10 If the children fail to
1 Arrests in Chinese Slavery Case, BBC NEWS (May 22, 2009), http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-
pacific/8063038.stm.
2 Id.
3 Id.
4 Id.
5 Id.
6 Dozens of Slave Workers Said Freed in China, CHRISTIAN TODAY (Mar. 20, 2008),
http://www.christiantoday.com/article/dozens.of.slave.workers.said.freed.in.china/17446.htm.
7 Id.
8 Id.
9 󷸂󰰙瑠朮󲗜敗褫◇33隣悛溷󱛖󱞏譽 6搗󰥣󱛖蓐 [Harbin Slave Labor Imprisonment Continues: 33
Slave Laborers are Rescued 6 Suspects are Arrested], SOHU. COM (Mar. 20, 2008, 9:49 AM),
http://news.sohu.com/20080320/n255809122.shtml.
10 John Ray, China’s Disabled Children are Sold Into Slavery as Beggars, OBSERVER (U.K.), July
22, 2007, available at http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2007/jul/22/china.theobserver (“[I]t i s
common for the parents of disabled children to offloa d them in this way.”).

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