China claims to protect the rights of disabled persons. Not if they dare to complain about the government.
by Liu Wangmin
When the CCP is accused of being among the world’s worst human rights violators, it often answers that it has a “different” idea of human rights. It claims to protect social rights to health, welfare, and work, prioritizing them over democratic rights such as freedom of speech or of religion. At the United Nations, China has even mentioned that it has a good record on protecting disability rights.
On paper, this is true. Since 2008, China has a law safeguarding the rights of persons with disabilities. The law is similar to its counterparts in democratic countries. A provision that “realistic and practical rehabilitation programs shall be worked out to combine modern techniques with traditional Chinese techniques” looks very much Chinese, but traditional medicine remains generally popular, and few would object to its use.
The problem is that in practice the law is not always enforced. Village chiefs and other local authorities operate on limited budgets, and may try to hide the presence of disabled persons in their communities, and avoid the expenses for their protection and rehabilitation.
Hence, the existence of a movement for disability rights, complaining and petitioning when the 2008 law is not enforced. Under Xi Jinping, local authorities are told to limit the number of petitions, and petitions reflect badly on their careers. The grid system is used to learn timely about possible petitions by citizens who believe their rights have been violated. They are then discouraged from filing their petitions, and told that they may be accused of the crimes of “extortion” and “blackmail,” legal tools often used against petitioners.
Jiang Zhilin, from the county-level city of Bole, in Xinjiang, emerged on social media as a popular disability rights activist under the nickname “Nanguo Linzi 007.” He suffers himself from a lower limb disability. Jiang also denounced the corruption of village authorities in his area, and problems in the supply of drinking water.
After having been repeatedly harassed and beaten by the police, Jiang was arrested by the Bole police on April 24, 2017, and his arrest was formalized on June 8, 2017. Predictably, he was accused of “extortion” and “blackmail.”
His family does not know to how many years in jail he was sentenced, but knows he is currently imprisoned in Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture, in the jail located in a village called Harabura. He suffers from significant weight loss, and has lost the ability to speak normally. The authorities told his relatives he suffered a brain stroke, but would not release more details, which made the family suspicious of how mistreatments in jail may have caused Jiang’s present condition.