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Film about disabled people provokes criticism of Chinese government

China's state media stopped promoting a short film about the daily struggles of a disabled man in rural China, after it racked up tens of millions of views. Beijing's inadequate disability rights record has sparked widespread online criticism.

Following online criticism from Chinese with and without disabilities, China's top video streaming website BiliBili removed the film from its recommended list as its official promotion ceased. has been removed.

Her eleven-and-a-half-minute film titled How Erjiu cured my mental friction after returning to the village for three days, and It is centered on a specific male. "Erjiu" or his second oldest uncle. Erjiu's relative, his Tang Hao, shot the film after visiting his home in an undisclosed location in rural China. Mr Tang said he would not disclose Mr Erjiu's name or location for privacy reasons. Erjiu himself does not speak in the film.

Released near the end of July, the film follows a 66-year-old man with a disability in his left leg. Institutional barriers allowed him to receive a limited education, so he turned to carpentry.

After years of working as a skilled carpenter, Erjiu now takes care of his 88-year-old mother and works as a village handyman. The film emphasizes that Erziu never complains or feels sorry for himself.

The story seems provocative, but that is part of the problem, says his Shixin Huang, a scholar focused on disability studies in China. In her field, disability is seen as a social and political construct, a far cry from how it is often thought in China, she said.

"The film perpetuates the stigma attached to disability as a form of personal tragedy rather than a social issue," Huang said in an interview with VOA Mandarin. It is a form of personal tragedy, and it is up to the individual himself.The perception of this kind of disability actually justifies all the suffering and barriers that Elziu encounters in life."

According to Huang, this view of disability essentially absolves governments of responsibility to do more to help people with disabilities, one of the major criticisms online. It is said that it is one. She cited Erjiu's limited education and limited career opportunities as examples of real-world barriers faced by people with disabilities in China.

In 2006, a national sample survey of people with disabilities in China found that the disabled population in thecountry was just under 83 million, or 6.34% of her total of 1.3 billion. It turns out that According to the World Health Organization, 15% of the world's population is disabled.

Zhang Jianping, an independent lawyer from Jiangsu Province who suffers from paraplegia or paralysis of the lower body, agrees with Huang. After state media such as the People's Dailyand Xinhua began touting the film as a positive portrayal of one man overcoming adversity, viewers became more critical of what they were watching. He said it made him think critically.

Viewers were frustrated that the government "seemed to take no responsibility for persons with disabilities," Zhang said in his VOA Mandarin interview. Told. “The state media initially wanted to promote the film as something positive, but then the film lost its value. Public opinion seemed to be changing, so they quickly removed it.

FILE - A disabled worker makes handicrafts at the Sweet Home factory in Shanghai Dec. 4, 2008.
File - Disabled worker at Sweet Home factory in Shanghai December 4, 2008 making handicrafts at

According to his Hangping Xu professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, the film is an example of a "superclip" story, in which people miraculously overcome obstacles, successful people. These stories are often intended to inspire able-bodied people, he added.

"In this film, suffering is worshiped and justified," said Xu. said in his VOA Mandarin interview. "The story seems to suggest that with sufficient stamina and fortitude, suffering can lead to greater wisdom." } comparable to the broader human rights record, both of which are poor. Human Rights Watch (HRW), in his July submission to the United Nations Commission on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities,concerns that the Chinese government is not complying with its obligations under the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. expressed. China ratified him in 2008. Since then progress has been slow.

According to HRW, the Chinese government still detains people with psychosocial disabilities, and people with disabilities continue to face barriers to education. . According to his HRW report in 2013, more than 40% of his disabled people in China are illiterate.

"China attaches great importance to ensuring a basic livelihood for persons with disabilities, improving their quality of life and promoting all-round development," said Washington. Liu Pengyu, spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in China, told his VOA Mandarin. email.

"Special welfare systems have been established at the national level, covering tens of millions of disabled people and providing living allowances, nursing subsidies, and child rehabilitation assistance," he said. continued.

Pengyu also told his VOA that he has over 95% enrollment of disabled children and adolescents in compulsory education. In 2013 he HRW reported that approximately 28% of children with disabilities do not receive compulsory basic education. This report is the latest research result.

According to HRW, about 15 million disabled people live on less than $1 a day in rural China.

Survive. Zhang, who became a paraplegic in a car accident many years ago, said. For the government, "disabled people are nothing".

Huang was not surprised that the film caused a lot of backlash online.

At the heart of the film is Beijing's emphasis on the concept of independence. The depiction of that theme appears to strike a chord among Chinese audiences, Huang said. He cited China's economic slowdown, rising unemployment and extreme COVID-19 restrictions as contributing factors. "The film may have caused people's dissatisfaction with these social issues."

Attorney General Zhang told VOA Mandarin that state media initially made a big splash about the film. He said he believed the publicity was intended to distract people from the current economic problems. Lockdowns to prevent the spread of COVID-19 as part of official "Zero COVID" policies have hamperedfactories and exports and reduced consumer spending,

but , State media did not expect people to reflect further," Zhang said.

While the Chinese government values ​​self-reliance, Huang said Beijing also benefits from presenting itself as the protector of the Chinese people. The film threatens its narrative, so Huang was not surprised that the state media tried to suppress it. It definitely doesn't fit the state narrative of good protection," Huang said. "It undermines the moral legitimacy of the patriarchal state."