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Shixin Huang Researches Disability Rights in China

Shixin Huang at conference on independent living
Shixin (second from right) participates in a conference on independent living in China, in which disability rights activists from Taiwan, Malaysia, Japan, Italy and etc. were invited to talk about the international model of independent living to a local disability organization.

November 30, 2020

With the generous support from of the Center for Human Rights’ Peter Mack and Jamie Mayerfeld fellowship, I was able to work on my dissertation project through digital ethnography. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, my plan to conduct in-person field work in disability rights organizations in China was impeded. Instead, I have shifted to the online mode of data collection. I have continued to act as a volunteer for an organization of parents of children with disabilities over the summer, which I use as a case study of my dissertation. I participated in their most important annual fundraising campaign in an internet fundraising platform by mobilizing volunteers and donors for the organization. I also participated in online conferences and trainings on disability rights in China. Together with the data I collected from last year’s field work, I finished a paper manuscript on the organization’s re-strategizing and self-fashioning using the market mechanisms in the institutional contexts of shifting resource environment of rights-based NGOs in China. The paper named NGO as Sympathy Vendor? The Realignment of Market, State, and Civil Society in China was presented at the 2020 annual conference of the American Political Science Association in September. Currently, I am in the process of rewriting the paper for publication.

Shixin participates in an online workshop on promoting the rights to higher education of people with disabilities held by the University of Hong Kong.

Another strand of activities I have conducted with the support of the fellowship are a series of research and public education initiatives regarding the human rights of people with disabilities in the COVID-19 pandemic. The public health crisis has influenced people with disabilities disproportionally, as a marginalized and vulnerable group. As a disability studies scholar, I have also devoted to examining the pandemic’s impacts on people with disabilities, an initiative that I didn’t plan in the course of the application of this fellowship. Over the summer, I have participated in two research projects together with local colleagues in China. One is a survey that unravels the informational gaps faced by people with disabilities in China during the COVID-19 outbreak; the other is a participatory action research project that examines the impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak on people with disabilities and the elderly in China. The first paper was presented at the British Sociology Association Disability Study Group Webinar series in July. The second research project, which was conducted with an online disability community, engages community members in the research process and aims at proposing policy recommendations on disability-inclusive public health responses. Additionally, I wrote a book chapter on Disability Employment and Social Security in the COVID-19 Pandemic for a Chinese book called The Protection of Disability Rights under Public Health Crisis edited by Wanhong Zhang, a human rights laws professor of the Wuhan University, China. I also hosted a series of webinar held by the Center of Chinese Law, the University of Hong Kong on the theme of disability rights in the COVID-19 pandemic. This strand of work turned out to be (and still continues to be) one of my main activity during the summer, which I believe to be one of the most significant human rights issues happening in our time. Without the support from the Center for Human Rights’ fellowship, I would not be able to sustain these works.