I went to a court hearing last week in Beijing to hear the case of a person with disabilities.
The 32-year-old man with speaking and hearing impairments was from a village in Hebei province. He was accused of stealing two pairs of trousers and some cash from a mall. However, I realized that this case was unbalanced.
First was the unprofessional interpreter.
A sign language teacher from a local school was invited to be the interpreter in the hearing. The suspect expressed a lot of sign language, but it was only interpreted as "yes, I stole two pairs of trousers and some cash from the shopping mall".
Sometimes, she seemed to forget her role and reverted to being a teacher. When the judge requested her to translate questions, she started educating the suspect with statements like: "you have to make sure you are not going to steal any more, and try to behave yourself". She spoke her words as she did sign language.
During the break, I asked the suspect some questions by writing them on my notebook. The man kept shaking his head, even when I asked if he stole the clothes. I asked the interpreter to translate his gestures to me but she refused. "He never admitted he stole the clothes. Those people with disabilities always lie," she said.
Second was the disorder and lack of respect.
Several times the judge noticed that the information from the procurator's statement and the documents provided by the procurator were different.
The disabled man tried to help by using sign language but the interpreter barely translated anything. Even worse, the judge rarely asked the translator to do so.
At the end of the hearing, the suspect was sentenced to five months in jail. When he left, he bowed to the judge and the court. I wondered if the suspect understood he was going to jail. Discrimination and misunderstanding was obvious at the hearing. A court hearing should never be disabled, even if the suspect is.