Disability in China: Facts, Progress, Definition and Laws

Being the most populous country in the world, China is home to a large chunk of the disabled population of the world. According to the United Nations, around 83 million people in China are inflicted with one or more disabilities. Let us explore the disability laws and life of people with disabilities in this socialist country that is officially known as the People’s Republic of China.

Definition of Disability in China

The term disability has been defined in the Law of the People’s Republic of China on the Protection of Disabled Persons. The law states “a disabled person refers to the one who suffers from abnormalities or loss of a certain organ or function, psychologically or physiologically, or in anatomical structure and who has lost wholly or in part the ability to engage in activities in a normal way”.

So, we can conclude that the People’s Republic of China defines disability as –

  • An abnormality
  • Caused due to loss of an organ
  • Or loss of a body function – psychological or physiological
  • Or a deformity in anatomical structure
  • Causing inability to perform activities in ‘normal ways’.

The law further adds that disabled persons include persons with –

Laws and Legislation for Persons with Disabilities in China

1. Constitution of the People’s Republic of China, 1982

The constitution of China enacted in 1982 provides general guidelines about the protection of people with disabilities by the state. Article 3 of the constitution provides equal rights to individuals with disabilities. It is mentioned that people with disabilities have equal political, economic, cultural, social and family rights. Discrimination based on disability is prohibited by the law. And, citizen’s rights and dignity of the persons with disability too are protected under the law.

2. The Law on the Protection of Disabled Person, 1991

The law enacted in 1991 and amended in 2008 is a significant law for the protection of the rights of persons with disabilities. This is an umbrella law that covers almost every aspect of the life and rights of individuals with disabilities. It covers issues like – medical care, rehabilitation, education, employment, welfare, accessibility, legal rights, cultural life, financial support, favorable jobs and tax policies etc. The law dictates that the family and the state are equally responsible for providing care to the disabled.

disability in china

3. Education Regulation

Article 9 Education Law of China states that it is the right as well as obligation of citizens of China to receive an education. And, no discrimination shall be done regarding opportunities of education based on any issues including disability.

Further, the compulsory education law of China makes it mandatory for every child including a child with a disability to get enrolled in school and receive 9 years of compulsory education. No tuition or any other miscellaneous fee is charged for compulsory education.

4. The Employment Regulation Act, 2007

The Employment Regulation Act enacted in 2007 prohibits any discrimination with persons with disability in matters relating to employment. The law further promotes equality, participation and sharing among the citizens including persons with disabilities.

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In addition to the above-mentioned laws, there are at least 50 national laws in the People’s Republic of China that contain specific laws regarding the rights of persons with disabilities. The country also supports the international standards to protect and promote the rights of persons with disabilities. The country has ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities as well as the ILO Convention No.159 on Vocational Training and Employment (Disabled People). The 5th National 5-year plan of China focused on improving the overall infrastructural accessibility in the country between the years 2005 and 2010.

Laws Relating to Employment of Persons with Disabilities in China

The Government of China takes care of the employment need of persons with disabilities by establishing a quota system. All private and public employers are required to reserve a minimum of 1.5% of the job opportunities for persons with disabilities, in accordance with the laws of the local provincial government. Those who fail to fulfill this duty necessarily need to pay a penalty fee to the Disabled Person Security Fund that is meant for the vocational training and job placement services for persons with disabilities. On the other hand, employers recruiting persons with disabilities are supported by the government through various means such as tax incentives, financial assistance, technical and other resource support etc.

Self-identification is not a concept supported in China. Those who want employment under the reserved quota for persons with a disability must provide a certificate of disability issued by the government. The certificate is normally issued by the China Disabled Person’s Federation. Employers have the right to collect information about a person’s disability at any stage of employment viz. after offering the job, after the commencement of employment etc. Employers are required legally to make an annual declaration about the employment status of persons with disabilities in their organization. The details that need to be furnished require a certificate of disability of the employees to prove identity and disability status, a record of social insurance contribution as well as payroll slips of the disabled employees to prove their relationship with the organization.

Social Status of People with Disability in China

Though there are various laws intending to give equal status to persons with disabilities the social stereotypes don’t allow persons with disabilities to enjoy equality in society. Biases and discrimination are general phenomena in Chinese society.

There’s a large gap between the living conditions of persons with disabilities and those without disabilities. Persons with disabilities are often affected by poverty and lack equal access to social security, education and vocational training and employment opportunities. Some studies have shown that many employers in China prefer to pay the penalty, if caught, rather than employ persons with disabilities as required by the law.

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