Actualizing Capacity in Chinese-Speaking Asia: On the Challenges and Good Practices to Implementing Article 12 of the UNCRPD

From the treatments they receive to voting at elections, persons with psychosocial and intellectual disabilities are often deprived of their right to make their own decisions in different aspects of social life. Formally recognising their capacity in law and, as such, honouring their autonomy, will, and preferences in accordance with Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability (UNCRPD) is thus an important and pressing task.

On 30 March 2019, the Human Rights Law and Policy Forum of the School of Law of City University of Hong Kong, together with Inclusive Asia, Chosen Power and Equity & Justice Initiative, held a Conference on ‘Actualizing Capacity in Chinese-Speaking Asia: On the Challenges and Good Practices to Implementing Article 12 of the UNCRPD’, bringing together legal practitioners from Asia’s Chinese-speaking societies and leading international experts in the area with the aim of exploring the challenges and best practices to effectively implement Article 12 of the CPRD. The conference attracted more than 130 participants.

The Conference commenced with a welcoming speech given by Dr. Stephenson Chow (Assistant Professor, School of Law, CityU) and Ms. Chine Chan (Inclusive Asia), who, after thanking all guests, highlighted the importance of Article 12 of UNCRPD.

The introduction was followed by the keynote speech delivered by Tina Minkowitz, Esq. (Center for the Human Rights of Users and Survivors of Psychiatry), one of the forty drafters of the CRPD, on the emergence of the absolute prohibition of forced interventions and substitute decision-making, two important paradigms now firmly rooted in DPO advocacy. She addressed how these paradigms were first brought into light during the drafting and negotiations of the CRPD and their subsequent development in CRPD jurisprudence.

Ms. Sharon Primor (The Israel Human Rights Center for People with Disabilities) gave a presentation on how civil society struggled to eliminate human rights violations in Israel’s psychiatric system, sharing her experience on the civil societies’ campaign in 2016 to abolish restraints and seclusions in psychiatric hospitals in Israel.

Dr. Oliver Lewis (Doughty Street Chambers) explained how law can be used to advance the rights of people with mental health issues or intellectual disabilities, sharing his experience as Executive Director of Validity, where he oversaw strategic litigation at the European Court of Human Rights and advocacy before the UN treaty bodies.

Dr. Michael Bach (Institute for Research and Development on Inclusion and Society) spoke about ‘Implementing Article 12 in Practice, Programs, Policy and Law: Some Lessons from Experience’ outlining three main questions that he wanted the audience to think about, namely: (1) What does ‘support’ for legal capacity mean?; (2) What ‘theory’ of legal capacity should drive our strategy for change?; and (3) How do we make change happen?.

A ‘Street Law Demonstration’ was performed by Chosen Power (People First Hong Kong) after the lunch break.

The second part of the Conference consists of panel discussions. The first panel discussion focused on ‘Asian Values and the Rights of People with Psychosocial Disabilities’ which was joined by Ms. Emmy Charissa (People with Psychosocial Disability of Singapore) and Ms. Raz Adibah Rosian (Mental Illness Awareness and Support Association) as discussants. Then followed a panel discussion on ‘Reflections on the Implementation of Article 12 of UNCRPD in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Mainland China’ with Ms. Huang Xuetao (Equity and Justice Initiative), Dr. Yibee Huang (Covenants Watch) and Ms. Sophie Cheung (Disabilities CV).

The conference ended with a closing remark by Dr. Simon Ng (University of Hong Kong) and Dr. Stephenson Chow who thanked all the guest speakers and attendees for their contributions to the discussion.