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October 23, 2009

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Parkson 'sorry' in disabled row

MULTINATIONAL retailer Parkson offered an apology yesterday after one of its department stores in eastern China was accused of discriminating against disabled people.

The Malaysia-headquartered chain posted an open letter on its Chinese website, saying the company "deeply regretted" an incident in which its Nanchang outlet denied entry to a wheelchair-bound woman two weeks ago.

The apology came two days after two domestic organizations representing disabled people staged a small-scale protest in front of a Parkson store in Beijing.

But the groups, Beijing One Plus One Cultural Exchange Center and China-Dolls Care and Support Association, said yesterday that the apology was far from enough to address the harm done to the disabled.

"We think Parkson should openly acknowledge its mistreatment of the lady and apologize via the press. We're not making a storm in a teacup. We hope this incident will increase public respect for the disabled," said Xie Yan, spokesman of BOPOCEC.

On October 8, a woman surnamed Zhang and her 80-year-old mother were denied entry to a Parkson store in Nanchang, capital of Jiangxi Province.

A security guard reportedly told Zhang that the order came out of concern for her mother's safety.

The guard also insisted that he was just obeying the rules of the store.

Although it was not because of disability but old age that Zhang's mother used the wheelchair, the incident was widely seen as a result of unfair treatment of the disabled.

A store manager apologized four days after the incident, but this failed to allay public outrage in China where 83 million of 1.3 billion people suffer from disability.

Wu Liheng, Parkson's publicity director, admitted the incident showed the company needed to further improve the education of its employees. Parkson promised to train all employees in China to improve service.


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