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  • » 09/09/2008, 00.00


    For Paralympics, volunteers prohibited from helping disabled orphans

    For the whole period of the games, they will not be permitted to visit the institutes where they bring comfort and material help to the children, who are often abandoned by their parents and have few others to care for them. Websites for assistance to the disabled blocked.

    Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) - The Beijing Paralympics have opened with a grandiose ceremony (4,823 participants, 423 of them disabled) broadcast throughout the world, and, according to the organizers, intended to depict "a common family in which all human beings live together". But while Chinese television and newspapers are full of news about the Games, and about the medals won by disabled Chinese athletes, the volunteers in Beijing have been "asked" not to visit the institutes for disabled orphan children, during the Games.

    Many volunteers, including physical therapists, visit the children every day. But Eulalia Anderson, head of the Beijing International Committee for Chinese Orphans, explains to the South China Morning Post that "we were told by each orphanage that we could return after the Paralympics, probably in October". Since April, public safety officials have "asked" them to suspend their visits. Anderson thinks that, perhaps, "needing help from expatriate volunteers is seen as less than ideal".

    The volunteers help the children with their rehabilitation exercises, apply creams and ointments, change diapers, make beds, clean bathrooms and game rooms, repair wheelchairs, and perform countless other services.

    For more than four years, Keith Wyse has been working at the orphanage of Langfang (Hebei, 40 kilometers from Beijing), which has 25 disabled children. He says that "since just before the Olympics, we have been forbidden from visiting the orphanages". "The government sees disabled people and disabled orphans as an embarrassing problem, which they don't know how to deal with". He also runs a private house for disabled children, the website of which (agapefamilyhouse.com) was blocked just before the Olympics.

    Medical operations to ease pain and correct disfigurements, paid for with charitable funds, have also been stopped.

    Deborah Mason explains that at the institute in Shunyii (with 40 residents, from newborns to adolescents), "when we used to arrive, all of the children except for the few who are physically independent were just lying in their cots, though the situation was not horrific". Some of them are mentally handicapped, others have physical disabilities like cleft palate or brittle bones. "They are either abandoned at birth, or as they get older, their parents can't afford medical care so they are taken to the orphanage". "The orphanage is clean and bright, but it is a pretty desperate situation now. There are just two or three [staff] carers on any one shift, so the daily visits by volunteers were vital".

    Sun Weide, spokesman for the Olympic organizing committee, says that he was unaware of the temporary ban. "I will look into this and check with the relevant authorities", he says.

    But Wyse says that ""It's only the orphans who suffer. I have to play cat and mouse with the authorities to keep my foster home open".

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    See also

    29/08/2008 CHINA
    Paralympics, another missed opportunity for China on human rights
    The proposal to keep the Olympic flame lit until the end of the games for the disabled has gone unheeded. This would have been "a strong sign" to the international community, which often forgets the daily difficulties faced by people with handicaps.

    04/09/2008 CHINA
    China, Paralympics about to begin, but disabled face workplace discrimination
    The government has launched a campaign aimed at promoting the rights of the disabled and attention toward them, but their living conditions do not seem to have improved. Business owners prefer to pay fines rather than hire disabled persons, many of whom are victims of workplace accidents and are sacrificed in the name of economic growth.

    02/08/2008 CHINA
    Beijing, police blocking protests even in designated parks
    Groups that want to demonstrate or present petitions are not being listened to, and are being kicked out of the city. And yet the government, during the period of the Olympics, had guaranteed freedom to demonstrate in three parks in Beijing.

    12/10/2007 CHINA
    Beijing: police beat underground Christian
    Police and private security guards knock Hua Huiqi around whilst in police custody. Human Rights Watch slams “worst crackdown in five years” against dissidents, Christians and rights activists; tens of well-known figures are arrested or disappear. Police enforces a cordon sanitaire around the capital to keep out would-be petitioners.

    15/11/2006 VIETNAM
    Vietnamese Catholics concerned about the fate of 300,000 blind children who are waiting for appropri
    These children have no guaranteed assistance and education and are still waiting to see their formal rights respected. Their problems are at the centre of a meeting in the archdiocese of Ho Chi Minh City.

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