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Deng Pufang Awarded UN Human Rights Prize

Deng Pufang, who is among the winners of this year's United Nations Prize in the Field of Human Rights, strongly advocates humanism as the banner for the welfare of China's handicapped population.


Humanism is a common heritage of mankind, and should become one of the fundamental principles for contemporary China, Deng said in an exclusive interview with Xinhua shortly after U.N. Assembly President Julian Hunte announced the prize winners at the U.N. headquarters on December 2.


Deng, the president of the China Disabled Persons' Federation (CDPF) and the elder son of China's late leader Deng Xiaoping, has been long known for his stance as a humanitarian. He has called, over and over again, for creating greater awareness about humanism among the Chinese people.


"China needs humanism for various reasons," he stressed.


Deng was himself a victim of the notorious Great Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), when he became paralyzed from the waist down. "The inhuman chaos left me with a paralyzed body, but I'm now using it to build up a humanitarian system in China," he has been widely quoted as saying.


"It doesn't matter whether I said this or not, but I agree with it," Deng told Xinhua. "Without humanism, there is no way to promote the welfare of the handicapped," he said.


It was the first time that Deng had ever been interviewed by a reporter from China's mainland. His last meeting with a reporter was two years ago, and the reporter was from Hong Kong.


Deng is the first Chinese and the first handicapped person in the world to receive the U.N. human rights prize. "He deserves it," commented a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman.


Deng regards the prize as praise for his efforts to safeguard the rights of the 60 million handicapped population, as well as recognition for the rapidly developing welfare efforts of handicapped people in the country.


"I want to be a person who loves others, who is a humanitarian, who is always helpful to others, who is tolerant of others, and who is self-reliant," he said. "I want to be a humanitarian all my life."


For the same reason, he entitled his first book, a collection of his official speeches and remarks, as "The Call for Humanism."


Deng is not only dedicated to the welfare of the handicapped population in China, he has also tried to protect the rights of the 600 million handicapped people throughout the world. As an enthusiastic advocate for the equal rights of handicapped people, Deng is working with his foreign counterparts to press for an international convention on the protection of the rights of persons with disabilities.


Deng founded the China Welfare Fund for Disabled Persons in 1983, and the China Disabled Persons' Federation in 1988. Over the past 20 years, enormous improvements have been made for the welfare of the handicapped.


Some 8.8 million persons with disabilities in China have been rehabilitated through modern methods; 74 percent of handicapped school children study in school, compared with less than five percent before; and the employment rate, 84 percent this year, of the handicapped is higher than the average.


A total of 3,218 people with disabilities are working as lawmakers or political consultants at different levels, which indicates that handicapped people in China are enjoying equal rights in the political arena as well.


Deng is not satisfied with these figures. "These are very small numbers, compared with the 60 million handicapped people," he insisted.


The man in the wheelchair spares no efforts to lobby for improvement in the welfare of the handicapped population. The Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, China's top legislature, is now amending the 13-year old Law on the Protection of Handicapped People, while the government departments concerned are drafting the Provisions on the Employment of Handicapped People.


"China will never become well-off if the handicapped population remains poor", Deng said.


(Xinhua News Agency December 11, 2003)

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