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WHO Goodwill Ambassador's Newsletter For The Elimination Of Leprosy

NEWS: People with Leprosy Welcome at Olympics

China retracts earlier ban to reflect support for recent UNHRC resolution.

When on June 2 the Beijing Olympic Organizing Committee issued guidelines for foreigners attending this summer's Olympics, it became apparent that people suffering from leprosy would not be granted entry visas. Although based on existing immigration law, the ban was soon at odds with China's co-sponsorship of a Human Rights Council resolution on June 18 calling for an end to discrimination against people affected by leprosy.

Goodwill Ambassador Yohei Sasakawa immediately sent letters protesting the ban to the Olympic organizers as well as to Chinese Premier Hu Jintao, saying it would only serve to reinforce the stigma and discrimination faced by individuals with leprosy. The Japanese government, which proposed the HRC resolution, raised the issue at a human rights dialogue with China in Beijing on July 15.

Two weeks before the start of the games, China announced that it was reversing the ban, in line with its position in support of the Geneva resolution, and a spokesman said the new rules would remain in place after the Olympics.

JAPANESE SANATORIUMS

On June 11, Japan passed a new law that permits outside entities to utilize the facilities of Japan's 13 leprosy sanatoriums. This is to ensure that residents can stay there for the rest of their lives, banning their discharge or transfer against their will. The new legislation stipulates that any changes with regards to the future of the sanatoriums cannot take place without the prior agreement of residents.

Some 2,700 people affected by leprosy, whose average age is nearly 80, remain in the sanatoriums, where they were originally confined under Japan's leprosy prevention law. With the law's abolition in 1996, any resident wishing to leave is entitled to financial assistance, but many have no home to return to, or are unable to care for themselves.