Academic journal article China: An International Journal

Population Policy and Eugenic Theory: Implications of China's Ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Academic journal article China: An International Journal

Population Policy and Eugenic Theory: Implications of China's Ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Article excerpt

China and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) came into force in May 2008 and is the first new human rights treaty of the 21st century. (1) The treaty is considered revolutionary in that it soundly rejects the medical and welfare approaches to disability, which focused on the "affliction" and the need to care for, treat or protect the affected individual. Instead, the treaty embraces the social and human rights models, which view people with impairments as rights holders who are often more disabled by physical and attitudinal barriers than by particular impairments. (2) Disability is considered a form of social oppression, which can be best addressed through laws and policies that affirm and implement the rights of persons with disabilities. The CRPD thus focuses on capability, inclusion and the removal of the physical and attitudinal barriers. The treaty was adopted because the international community recognised that persons with disabilities were living in deplorable conditions, frequently segregated from society and deprived of their basic human rights. (3) In theory, the rights of persons with disabilities should have been protected under several pre-existing human rights treaties, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT). Unfortunately, the monitoring committees for these treaties generally paid insufficient attention to disability issues and were not fully engaged in the social model of disability. (4) The United Nations Standard Rules on the Equalisation of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities sought to improve the quality of life for persons with disabilities, but these rules were not legally binding. (5) Thus, there was a need to adopt a thematic treaty, one that would address disability in a comprehensive and detailed manner and make it clear that persons with disabilities are rights holders under international law. The treaty is also important in that it has moved away from the traditional distinction between "civil and political" rights, and "economic, social, and cultural" rights. This distinction has dominated international human rights discourse since the adoption of the ICCPR and the ICESCR, the two treaties that translated the Universal Declaration of Human Rights into enforceable obligations. The CRPD, on the other hand, embraces a more holistic view of what human rights means for persons with disabilities, which may involve a combination of rights traditionally set forth in separate treaties. (6) For example, Article 21 of the CRPD affirms that people with disabilities shall enjoy freedom of expression, which is found in the ICCPR and is often categorised as a "negative right" on the ground that the state can fulfil its duties simply by not interfering with citizens' rights to express opinions and access information. Yet, in the CRPD, the concepts of freedom of expression and access to information are not simply "negative rights" because Article 21 also imposes affirmative duties on the state, such as promoting accessible technologies and the use of sign language. This means that the traditional distinction between "negative" and "positive" rights largely disappears in the CRPD.

The concept of adopting a treaty on disability and human rights received substantial support from the Chinese government, as well as from other governments in the Asia-Pacific region. For example, the first World NGO Summit on Disability was held in Beijing in 2000, generating the Beijing Declaration on the Rights of People with Disabilities in the New Century. The Declaration called for the adoption of an international treaty to "promote and protect the rights of persons with disabilities, and enhance equal opportunities for participation in mainstream society". …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.