There are so many blogs out there its hard to keep track of them all, but when China Law Blog recommends one, I’m going to be sure to check it out. The guys at that blog recently mentioned the iLook China blog and I decided it was time to take a look, unfortunately, what I found was really disappointing.
A recent post focuses on the “odd news” story about a group of around 200 villagers in Shandong whose family name is unwritable on computers. There was never an issue regarding their names until government documents started being computerized and now there is no way for their IDs to contain their actual last names, so everyone has had to change their names from Shan to Xian. I’m no tech genius, but I’d imagine it wouldn’t be that hard to add the character to a word processor and input program, especially considering the government sent out a circular last year to strictly recognize such names, though it appears this one was left off the list.
It would seem the author of the iLook China blog misunderstood the situation or cannot write Chinese, as he thinks it would take changing every computer in China to write the name of these 200 people. The problem has nothing to do with keyboards, its just that input systems don’t contain the character, which shouldn’t be that hard to change. Further, the heart of the problem really only involves government computers which produce IDs, driver’s licenses and other such documents and since all these people are from the same village in Shandong, it shouldn’t be that hard to make the needed changes.
He also seems to completely miss the importance of someone’s name. I wonder what the other would think if his family name suddenly had to be changed. One can understand the anger of the family members and of the general public, these unique characters are part of what makes Chinese so unique and interesting and the loss of them is a real tragedy.
But none of this would be enough to drive me to post something. No, the problem is that the author connects this issue to the Americans with Disabilities Act, his thoughts on the act, if about an ethnic group, would be considered vile racism, but since its about the disabled, its excusable? Its shocking that in this year, the 20th anniversary of the ADA, there are still people that think like this. The ADA ranks up there as one of the most important pieces of federal legislation in the last 50 years, guaranteeing that the promise in the Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equally” and that we all have the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” is true of the disabled as well.
The author seems to think the ADA is an example of ”an individualist culture that puts the individual above the whole. To improve one life, twenty may be ruined or sacrificed.” It’s hard to agree with that, but in any case, its not only in this naming story that China is becoming a more “individualist culture”. Since Beijing’s successful Olympic bid in 2001, accessibility has been taken into consideration at all new buildings in Beijing (and many other cities around China) and changes have been implemented to make public transportation more accessible.
Whether in China or the US, making society accessible to all is important, it is a cost that society must bare, thankfully, in most cases it does so happily.