- Job title: Visiting Professor, School of Law
- Email: S.Hallett@leeds.ac.uk
- Faculty: ESSL
- Location: Liberty Building
- Areas of expertise: Disability in China
Stephen Hallett is the Project Manager of the East Asia disability rights project, U-LEAD Rights Forum. Having focused on disability rights in East Asia for 20 years, Stephen’s in-depth knowledge and many years of working and living in China promises to make this new project a real asset to the School of Law at the University of Leeds.
Stephen says “As a project focusing on participatory research, U-LEAD offers an exciting opportunity to help bridge the gap between universities, disabled people and their communities, while strengthening the rights discourse between China and the rest of the world. The Centre for Disability Studies and the School of Law offer some of the best intellectual resources this project could have. It’s a huge privilege to be part of this – and wonderful to be back at my alma mater!”
Stephen was born in Tanzania, grew up in England and South Africa and, since 1983, has spent the greater part of his time in the People’s Republic of China. Realizing a teenage fascination for that country, he read Chinese Studies at Leeds, spending his second year at the Beijing Languages Institute in 1980. After graduating he won a British Council scholarship to do postgraduate studies at Beijing’s Renmin University. He later taught in Chinese universities and managed the Chinese Studies program at Beijing International School. During that time Stephen also translated and published a number of works of Chinese literature, including novels by the noted feminist writer Zhang Jie.
After the Tian’anmen clampdown of 1989, Stephen returned briefly to the UK where he turned his attention to documentary making. Over the next 10 years he initiated, researched and produced numerous documentaries for British television, including “Tears of the Dragon” (a series on the Chinese environment), “China Rocks” (a film about China’s first major rock star), “Women of the Yellow Earth” (about the effects of family planning in a rural China) and “Walking the China Tightrope” (about the Chinese press).
In 1998, with declining eyesight and a growing interest in disability, Stephen and a number of colleagues set up China Vision, a UK-registered charity to support education for people with visual and other impairments in China. Over the past 20 years China Vision has run and supported numerous initiatives in mainland China, focusing largely on building capacity in the NGO sector. After working in radio production for three years, Stephen was inspired to approach the BBC World Service Trust to set up a project to train blind radio producers in China. This led to the project “In Touch for China” (inspired by BBC Radio 4’s “In Touch”) which established China’s first independent radio production centre in Beijing, run entirely by disabled people.
As China Country Director for the BBC World Service Trust (2005-8), Stephen managed this and other media development projects. “In Touch for China” left an important legacy: the founding of China’s first – and probably most influential -non-governmental DPO, Beijing One Plus One. Working with this and other independent groups, Stephen has run workshops in China and Hong Kong to raise awareness of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and empower civil society to be part of the CRPD monitoring process.
Since 2008, Stephen has continued to lead China Vision’s work, building capacity within the disability rights community in China, forging international links and supporting projects on inclusive education and supported employment. He has also researched and written about disability issues in China, attempting to understand the complex relationships between disability, identity, culture and politics. In 2010 he was awarded the OBE for his contributions to work on disability in the Peoples Republic of China.