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Signing lawyer helps voiceless

By Tan Yingzi in Chongqing | China Daily | Updated: 2018-08-29 09:42

Attorney says people with hearing issues need improved legal support

Tang Shuai (second from left) appears in court as a defence counsel in Chongqing. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Tang Shuai became China's first "sign language lawyer" in 2012, allowing him to provide legal advice to the many hearing-impaired people in his native Chongqing and beyond.

Six years on, he is still the only one.

"We need more lawyers who can communicate using sign language to serve the 27 million Chinese with hearing problems," said Tang, 33, who is managing partner of Ding Sheng Law Firm. "I'm not proud of the fact I'm the only one in China."

Tang has worked in the legal field for 12 years, originally as an interpreter and then as an attorney after passing the national law exam. He became famous across China in January when a short video about his story, produced by the Party political and legal affairs commission in Chongqing's Dadukou district, went viral.

"One morning, my cellphone suddenly started getting lots of alerts for friend requests on WeChat," he said. "Over 3,000 people added me, and I found myself in more than 500 chat groups."

Shortly after, he realized that thousands of deaf and hearing-impaired people around China had fallen victim to a large-scale Ponzi scheme targeted at this vulnerable community and they needed legal assistance.

Due to the lack of legal professionals who understand sign language, it has been difficult for those people to communicate with the police. Many disabled people also do not receive a proper education, and some cannot even read or write.

The investigation into the scheme is ongoing, and Tang has been offering advice to some of the victims.

Tang was a healthy child born to deaf parents, who had lost their hearing due to poor medical treatment when they were children.

He was raised mostly by his grandparents.

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