TW: Descriptions of abuse and exploitation of disabled people
General warning: No, I don't actually think this is a particularly good proposal as far as having hard facts. But the professor says story is better than statistics, and that stories should grab people. I think I avoided making the disability itself seem tragic or portraying the people with disabilities inherently more innocent, at least. And there are some statistics in the relevant articles.
Liu Xiaoping is covered in third-degree burns. He has marks on his wrists from the chains used to keep him from running away at night. He is not a fictional character. He is a 30-year-old man who spent 10 months held captive in a brick factory. He was tricked there because of an intellectual disability. When he became too weak to work anymore, he was thrown out on the street, where he was eventually found. We only know about his story because He Wen is also missing, presumably also held at a brick factory. He went missing over a year ago, and his father, He Zhimin, stumbled upon Xiaoping while searching for Wen. Liu Xiaoping, He Wen, and others like them are recruited with the promise of the equivalent of $10 per day, which they never see. Instead, the equivalent of $4.50 per day is paid to the person who recruited them for each worker she brings. Even with the essential enslavement of workers with intellectual disabilities, the brick factories are still often short on labor, as it is difficult to find workers willing to work in the brick factories. Perhaps this is why there is a demand for workers with intellectual disabilities, who are perceived as easier to trick, easier to control, and less likely to be searched for with any determination.
How does the exploitation of those with intellectual disabilities affect China-the individuals, the families, the businesses, the social structures and perceptions of people with disabilities, and the economy in general? Do these stories about the exploitation actually lead to real changes? What else can the narrative of disability in China look like?
Disabilities are not limited to the intellectual, of course, nor are they always present from birth. Some disabilities are acquired, like those of Li Nan and Zhang Haidi. One day, Li Nan was a renowned dancer. The next, a car accident left her in a wheelchair with both legs amputated. This could happen to anyone. The Premier visited her, and she commented on the need for better accessibility in public spaces. There is now a law in China mandating wheelchair accessibility. Zhang Haidi acquired her disability at a younger age, becoming paraplegic at the age of five from a surgery to remove tumors from her spine. While she attempted suicide at one point, she also later became a poster child for the revolution when it spoke about people with disabilities, and she currently heads China's Disabled Person's Federation. She was among the first people with paralyzed limbs to obtain a driver’s license in China under regulations that allow for driving a modified car after a three month training period.
These two examples serve to show that just because we and our loved ones are fully able now, we do not know that this will remain the case. Disabilities exist. They always have, and they always will. The question I think needs answering is how disability affects Chinese society? How does disability affect the Chinese national economy? What about the personal finances of people with disabilities in China and the finances of their households? What effects can the way the government defines and provides (or does not provide) accommodation for disability have on the personal, family, and community scales in China? Essentially, how does China handle disability, and what economical effects result from the intersection of disability and Chinese culture?
Demick, Barbara. "China's Disabled Exploited as Slaves." Los Angeles Times. N.p., 26 Feb. 2011.
Web. 9 Sept. 2012.
Levi, Eric. "Disability Rights in China." Disaboom. N.p., n.d. Web. 9 Sept. 2012.
"Zhang Haidi." Chinaposters.net. N.p., 29 July 2012. Web. 9 Sept. 2012.
Articles relevant to the question:
Loyalka, Prashant, Lan Liu, Gong Chen, and Xiaoying Zheng. The Economics of Disability in
China. Working paper. Rural Education Action Project, May 2012. Web. 9 Sept. 2012.
Weiss, Thomas C. "Overview of Disability in China." Overview of Disability in China. Disabled
World, 16 Mar. 2010. Web. 9 Sept. 2012.