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Remarks by Ms ZHANG Haidi, Chairperson of China Disabled Persons' Federation at 2016 Social Forum of the UN Human Rights Council


Distinguished Chairperson,

Ladies & Gentlemen,

Dear Friends,

Good morning!

I'm honored to attend the Social Forum of the UN Human Rights Council. It is of special meaning for me to come to the Forum to exchange ideas with all of you. China is home to more than 85 million persons with disabilities. I have so much to share with you about the human rights protection of them.

I myself am disabled. I was paralyzed by spinal hemangioma when I was 5 years old, and have not been able to stand up again ever since. At that time, primary schools rejected me due to my disability. I was so lonely and painful. I had no friends, no classmates. My only companion was a little cat. However, I started to teach myself. Whatever kids learned in school, I taught myself at home. I wanted to catch up with them! This was the original idea of equality in my mind. This was more than 50 years ago.

In my girlhood, I had no wheelchair, even had never seen a real wheelchair. When I was 15 years old, I went to a village with my parents. A kindhearted farmer carpenter made me a wooden wheelchair. Although it was clumsy and never easy to operate, sitting in it I was able to go to the green fields, for the first time in my life. I still vividly remembered the first ray of sunshine on me, so warm and so bright. It was more than 40 years ago.

In September 1981, I got a job. Thanks to the International Year of the Disabled, people came to recognize the value of persons with disabilities. The China Post Office even issued a special stamp of the International Year of the Disabled. It was more than 30 years ago.

In 1988, The China Disabled Persons' Federation (CDPF) was founded. The living conditions of persons with disabilities in China have been greatly improved over last 20 years. In 2008, I was elected the Chairperson of CDPF, working for more than 85 million persons with disabilities.

In the last 10 years in China, great progress has been achieved in legislation to protect the rights and interests of persons with disabilities, in creating an accessible environment, and in rehabilitation, education, employment and poverty alleviation, etc.

I firmly believe that human rights protection of persons with disabilities should and can only start by meeting their real needs. It is only when they have access to rehabilitation and convenient living conditions that human rights protection carries real weight.

As the chairperson of CDPF, one of my priority is to go into urban and rural areas to get first-hand information about the real conditions and needs of persons with disabilities, especially at the grass-roots level. My colleagues and I visited their families in poverty-stricken areas across China. Accordingly, we advised the government to formulate and revise its disability-related policies. In 2015, we made a special survey nationwide of 26 million registered persons with disabilities, and collected information about themselves and their needs. The data is of great significance for the government to conduct relevant research and develop targeted policies.

During this process, we gained further understanding of the urgency of poverty alleviation for persons with disabilities. Therefore, I recommended to the government to grant living and care allowance to poor persons with disabilities and those with severe disabilities. Last September, the Chinese government laid out the Double Subsidy Scheme, which took effect on 1 January 2016. More than 20 million people with disabilities across the country will benefit from it and enjoy a better life.

Over the years, in order to realize the goal of inclusive development for persons with disabilities, we assisted the Ministry of Education to develop facilitation measures for persons with disabilities to attend the national entrance examination. Candidates with visual impairments now have access to Braille and large-print test papers. Candidates with no upper limbs can use their own suitable table and chair, and those with cerebral palsy can apply for extended time. In 2015 alone, universities and colleges received 8,500 students with disabilities.

Dear friends,

Rehabilitation is always our top priority. In recent years, rehabilitation centers have been built up in more than 30 provinces, regions and cities across China. Due to a serious shortage of rehabilitation professionals, I proposed for the government to build up a China Rehabilitation University. I'm happy to inform you that the proposal has been incorporated into the new National Five-Year Plan. We pay special attention to the rehabilitation of children with disabilities. We are carrying out the "rescue of rehabilitation", designed to meet the urgent needs of infants and children under 6 years old. This program has enabled many children with hearing impairments or cerebral palsy to rehabilitate, go to school and enjoy happy childhood with their peers.

Dear friends,

In 2014 during the 22nd APEC summit in Beijing, CDPF hosted an event entitled "Equal access, Inclusive development". The outcome document of the event called for the incorporation of the disability issue into the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

In 2015 in New York, on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the United Nations, CDPF, along with UN DESA and UN Post Office, jointly issued the commemorative stamp sheet featuring the incorporation of disability issue into 2030 sustainable development agenda.

In 2016, we celebrated the tenth anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Beijing. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon attended and spoke highly of the achievements of the Convention over the past decade. I proposed for the UN to establish the World Disability Organization, because there are one billion persons with disabilities in the world.

Dear friends,

The suffering and plight of persons with disabilities are beyond imagination. I have seen some ALS patients who were completely paralyzed and could only blink their eyes to show that they want to put an end to their lives as they had lost the ability of speech. I've also seen many autistic children and their parents. Some parents had to give up their jobs to take care of their kids. I hope I can do more to help them relieve their pain, address their difficulties and enable them to live a better life.

Later in October, I will take office in Edinburgh as the President of Rehabilitation International. I will spare no efforts in serving persons with disabilities of the world.

Dear friends,

I sincerely invite you to China, and to China Disabled Persons' Federation for a visit. By then, I will share with you more stories about China.

Thank you!

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