The red lantern-styled Paralympic mascot, Shuey Rhon Rhon, is seen outside the National Aquatics Center, or "Water Cube" in Beijing on March 1. (Photo/Xinhua)
Chinese athletes expected to inspire 85 million disabled people in country
President Xi Jinping will attend the opening ceremony of the Beijing 2022 Paralympic Winter Games on Friday night at the National Stadium and declare the Games open.
China's 96 best Paralympic athletes will compete for the highest honor in their sport during the 10-day sports event and aim to inspire over 85 million people with disabilities in the country to reach beyond their limits.
To enable disabled people to live up to their potential has been a centerpiece of a wide-ranging support campaign initiated by the nation's top leadership over the past decade, which made disabled people a focus of poverty relief campaigns and job creation measures.
"The disabled are just as capable of leading rewarding lives as able-bodied people," Xi, who is also general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, said when he visited disabled people at a rehabilitation center in Tangshan, Hebei province, in 2016.
He emphasized that disabled people are equal members of society and an important force for the development of human civilization and upholding and developing Chinese socialism.
Xi pledged during the visit that no disabled individual will be left behind in the nation's push to build itself into a moderately prosperous society in all respects by the end of 2020.
As the nation scaled up its poverty relief efforts, the government included 10.76 million people with disabilities into its social assistance programs and lifted another 7.1 million out of extreme poverty.
The government also issued lifelong subsidies for 12.1 million poverty-stricken disabled people and subsidized care and rehabilitation for 14.73 million people with severe disabilities.
Yang Lixiong, a professor of social security studies for disabled people at Renmin University of China, said Xi has elevated the importance of ensuring equal rights for disabled people to an unprecedented height since he took office, and the nation has made remarkable headway in this area over the past decade.
"With a stronger social security net, the nation has now pulled all disabled people from absolute poverty and ensured more equal access to opportunities in society," Yang said.
China's nine-year compulsory education covers over 95 percent of disabled children, and the number of children who study at special education institutions increased to 880,000 in 2020 from 440,000 in 2015. Over 50,000 disabled children were admitted to higher education institutions between 2015 and 2020, according to the State Council.
More disabled people have now embraced sports activities, and their participation in community cultural and sports activities rose from 6.8 percent in 2015 to 23.9 percent in 2021.
Yang said the nation is set to ramp up measures to support disabled people as part of the drive to achieve common prosperity.
In its latest move to beef up support for the disabled, the State Council published a five-year plan to guarantee the well-being of disabled people and promote their development until 2025.
"There is still room to bridge the regional divide between eastern and western areas in guaranteeing the rights of disabled groups and between people with different disabilities," Yang from Renmin University of China said.