2017-12-01 12:10:22

A people’s court in northeastern China has ruled in favor of a man with a visual impairment who requested that his public transport fee be refunded by the Dalian subway, local media reported Thursday.

Zhang Subo, a resident in the seaside city in Liaoning province, filed a lawsuit against the Dalian Metro Company in September, after the company declined to refund the 4.8 yuan ($0.73) ticket fee Zhang paid for a ride on the No. 3 rapid transit line.

On Tuesday, a district court issued a verdict saying that the subway company had violated the Law on the Protection of Person With Disabilities and ordered the company to return the money to Zhang. According to the disabilities law, governments above the county level are obliged to offer people with disabilities cheaper, and more convenient access to, public transportation. For the people with visual impairments, the law stipulates that all public transport within the city — including bus, tram, subway, and ferry — be free of charge.

But such preferential policies are not well-implemented in Dalian, Zhang told Sixth Tone. The 36-year-old said he relies on the No. 3 rapid transit line to shuttle him several times a week to job-training courses offered by the Dalian Disabled Persons’ Federation. While subway lines in the city are free to people with visual impairments, Zhang was told by metro staff that the No. 3 rapid transit line, which is not technically the subway, is free only to soldiers with disabilities.

“If it’s written in the law, then the government should put it into practice,” Zhang said.

In January, Zhang had filed a petition with the city’s transportation bureau, asking for an explanation as to why the No. 3 rapid transit line was not free for people with visual impairments. In its reply, the bureau explained that the line goes to the Dalian Development Area, which is not within the city limits, and as such does not fall under the disability law. But Zhang was not satisfied and filed a lawsuit with the district court, requesting that the transportation bureau deal with the situation.

Zhang won that case and the transportation bureau was asked to accommodate his request within 60 days. But the bureau appealed, and a new hearing date has been set for mid-December. “The transportation bureau argued in court that it is not responsible for making changes to fare prices,” said Zhang.

For his case against the Dalian subway, Zhang brought the dispute before the Dalian Disabled Persons’ Federation, but the federation’s negotiations with both the transport bureau and the metro company failed, and the advocacy group informed Zhang that it could be of no further help.

Wang Jinhai, Zhang’s lawyer, told Sixth Tone that as in the previous case involving the transportation bureau, the Dalian Metro Company appealed the court’s verdict. “The company said it could not change the fare because it had received no authorization to do so from the transportation bureau,” Wang said.

Zhang is among the growing ranks of people with disabilities in China who are taking up the banner to stand up for their legitimate rights. In August, a first-year student with a visual impairment at a university in northeastern China spoke out after being denied on-campus accommodation.

According to a report by the China Disabled Persons’ Federation, by the end of 2016, China had established 1,921 centers offering legal aid to people with disabilities. Zhang found his lawyer, Wang, at one such center.

Editor: David Paulk.

(Header image: A man with a visual impairment on a subway with his guide dog in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, Nov. 27, 2012. Zhang Di/VCG)