news n politics

Hepatitis B cause for discrimination in China

By Ching-Ching Ni
Los Angeles Times

JIAXING, China – Until a few months ago, Zhou Yichao’s goal, to get a good job and support his widowed mother, seemed well within reach.

He had just taken the public-servant exam and scored among the very top. His face-to-face interview could only help his prospects, as the 22-year-old knew his potential employers would be impressed with his tall athletic build and good manners.

Then his application was rejected on the basis that he tested positive for hepatitis B, a liver disease he never knew he had. With few exceptions, Chinese government agencies legally may weed out candidates based on the health of their liver.

Zhou bought a fruit-carving knife, found the two officials who rejected his application and stabbed one to death and seriously wounded the other.

Today Zhou sits on death row.

But instead of outrage against an intentional murderer, Zhou’s name has become the rallying call of a national movement against discriminatory hiring practices and the lack of legal redress.

“The outcome of this case could affect the entire future of people with hepatitis in China,” said Bi Xuejun, Zhou’s attorney. “Unfair discrimination against a whole segment of society could push some people to commit extreme antisocial acts. This is a serious social problem. Zhou has basically sacrificed his own life to bring attention to this issue.”

More than 120 million people, about 10 percent of the Chinese population, are chronic carriers of the disease, many of whom like Zhou do not show any symptoms of infection and should not pose a threat to their co-workers.

Hepatitis B is spread through the exchange of bodily fluids, such as contaminated blood, unprotected sex, shared needles and between infected mothers and their newborns. It is not contagious through casual contact such as shaking hands.

Full-blown hepatitis B causes liver failure and death. Nearly a million people worldwide die from the disease every year, about one-third of them Chinese.

Like HIV/AIDS, there is no cure for the illness. Unlike AIDS, however, hepatitis B is preventable with a simple vaccine. While the Chinese government is stepping up efforts to immunize newborns and gradually reduce the overall infected population, inoculating the entire population has proved far tougher, advocates say, than tolerating widespread discrimination.

“Chinese know a lot more about AIDS because at least there are campaigns that teach people about how it is spread,” said Zhang Xianzhu, another graduate rejected by a state employer after his hepatitis B test. “But there are no campaigns to educate them about hepatitis, how it’s caught and spread. And because it is not as deadly as AIDS it has totally been neglected.”

Under the old cradle-to-grave socialist system, individuals were assigned job units and few employers bothered to check the medical health of someone they couldn’t fire anyway.

In China’s new capitalist-style economy, only the very best, or physically fit, are chosen for jobs in a nations where between 100 million and 200 million are out of work and 2 million new college graduates join the job market each year.

Height, marriage and health status can be considered by employers in China. Under the circumstances, a positive hepatitis test can mean no job.

To cope, some cheat, hiring healthy people to take the required physical, or hop from job to job to avoid detection. The lucky ones go overseas, where privacy laws forbid employers to ask such questions. Many more go back where they came from, usually rural areas where they try to forget they ever earned a college diploma. Some resign themselves to a life of farming or other manual labor.

But social discrimination and medical ignorance also go beyond the job market.

A new Web site for hepatitis carriers is filled with horror stories. According to one mother who is herself a carrier and had passed it to her child, her local kindergartens refused to accept anyone who tests positive for the virus. After several rejections at various local schools, she had no choice but send her 3-year-old to live with her grandmother in the countryside.

Afraid to betray their health status, some carriers never date or marry. Others keep it from their spouse.

Zhang filed the country’s first discrimination lawsuit against the government.

“I wanted to do something for this community,” Zhang said. “I know it is not easy for the people to sue the government and many people are afraid to do it. But I did it because there are so many people like me locked out of jobs and rotting in their little dark corners of the world. We face a crisis of survival.”
Posted by: Los Angeles Times at April 9, 2004 09:00 PM
Unfortunately, Zhang only won this lawsuit by name. The local court did nothing about his employment request. The judge also avoided to comment whether blood test aimed to kick out all hbver in any feild is right or wrong; or whether it’s a form of discrimination.

All large companies in mainland still require the applicants to undergo a blood test to see if he or she is HBV positive. carriers of HBV have no chance to be accepted into any companies. The only way to pass is to cheat. What a pity.

want to know what’s insane? a government’s police that’s indirectly killing millions of lives.

if you know chinese, here’s a story written by a chinese who’s a HBV carrier. keep in mind, there’s no cure for HBV carrier. and it’s NOT contagious through casual contact such as shaking hands. imagine if you are a new college graduate tested positive for HBV, no matter how well you did in school, you are sentenced by the government to be rotting in a dark alley somewhere. is this fair?

我今年28岁,是四川师范大学94级学生,毕业于1998年。当我第一次听到民主这个词的时候,它是带着血腥味道的。1989年,我还是一个初中1 年级的学生,那时我在四川省阿坝藏族羌族自治州一个最偏远的地方读书,我在电视上突然看到全国各大城市发生了要求民主和自由的运动,然后是共产党中央内部的分裂。接下来是所谓的“反革命暴乱”和解放军战士遭残杀、公共服务系统遭暴徒焚烧的场面。我十分相信中国共产党中央的言行,并支持他们关于“稳定就是一切”的政策。对西方国家对中国人民的“打压”和制裁深表憎恨。




当我发现自己是一个乙肝病毒携带者的时候,我已经对病毒产生了恐惧,然而,国家没有对我们采取任何救济措施或必要的卫生知识指导,反而对我们的生存状态保持惊人的冷漠态度!正如《洛杉叽时报》(los angles post)对众所周知的杀人者周一超(zhouyichao)所做的公正评价一样:一个22岁的年轻人,遇到这种情况,他根本不可能知道他该怎么办!





当我带着这样左右为难的复杂心情去政府的大医院询问有关医生的时候,他们的回答仍然是,我不用治疗。我问这些大医院的医生,为什么电台电视台和报刊杂志的说法和他们不一样,为什么他们认为我的肝功能是正常的,所有的工作单位都不允许我工作。众所周知,中国的医生的职业道德和服务水准在共产党卫生部的领导下,是相当不人性化的,我对大医院医生提出的这些“多余”的问题,他们往往是不屑于回答的,有位医生干脆还给我这样的答复:中国的人多,国家和社会就是要采用这种方法让乙肝病毒携带者自然淘汰掉!自然淘汰——这是多么可怕的一个词!我眼前浮起了从来没见过的爷爷奶奶1960年在中国的饭碗(the rice bowl of china)一声不吭双双倒下的惨状!浮现起了我父亲(当时他还只有14岁)跪在裹着两具尸体的破席子前面,一只手端着一个灵牌的惨状!!!虽然那段历史发生的时候,我还没来到这个世界上,但是在那一刹那,我竟然仿佛看到了那一场面今天正活生生然而却是空前悄声无迹地在这个国家上演!我还想到了希特勒和斯大林的集中营,想到了日本法西斯的731工厂!我分明感觉到,这“自然淘汰”,这政府和公立医院医生的冷漠,就是一个看不见的毒气室!!!我对共产党政府当时的感觉就是这样!!!

说明:我身体已经非常不好了,请容许我稍后继续向尊敬的你们展示中国的真实时刻(the moment of truth),并请容许我稍后向你们提供英语版本。我英语水平有限,但是,为了近2亿乙肝病毒携带者的人权,和他们家庭成员的人权——他们的人数加起来恐怕将达到差不多中国人口一半的数目——我已经不惜流亡!但是,我还是要祈祷,请一位最为权威和慈爱的道德判断者让我好好呆在我的祖国中国,自由地、有尊严地呆在我的家乡,呆在这自古就有名的天府之国!!我要为中国人民祈祷,不要再这样悄悄地、无知地死去!

asian labour
peking duck
life in jiangxi

5 thoughts on “Hepatitis B cause for discrimination in China

  1. wow…. he shouldn’t have taken that knife, and did what he did… but i guess the message had to come out sooner or later… how awful though…. =\ the whole situation

    1. seeing from his pov, he will have to die either way. one is slowly rotting in a dark corner, one is take a knife and show his dissatisfaction and be sent to the death row.

  2. The ministry of health of PR China recently released the general medical check-up standards for civil servants applicants and published it in its website for public opinion and advice ( The standards lists out more than 20 kinds of diseases, people found with such diseases in the mandatory pre-employment medical check for applicants for civil servant will be screened out and rejected. Among those diseases are HIV/AIDS, HEART DISEASE, serious short-sightedness, etc. Compared to the past standards, there are some improvements, in particular, the HBV (Hepatitis B Virus) are considered acceptable if the liver functions well. This is a good news for the group of over 120 million HBV carriers in China, but this is not good enough as long as the test for HBV is allowed, because the test results may be revealed and misused and leads to indirect discrimination, we are calling for the prohibition of mandatory test for HBV. As I understands, the ILO code of practice on HIV/AIDS and the world of work stipulates, HIV testing should not be required at the time of recruitment or as a condition of continued employment (8.1. Prohibition in recruitment and employment).
    I am writing this letter to kindly let you know that Chinese government has played and been playing a bad role in discriminating people with many kinds of diseases, whatever HIV/AIDS or HBV, as a result of recent pressure from the huge HBV carriers group, the government is starting to face the problem and do something, but as seen from the above standards, there is a long way to go. As a victim of the inhuman and unjust check-up system, I sincerely hope you and your organization could voice your opinion and suggestion to the Chinese government, try to influence them to adopt a more human and wise approach concerning the patient’s rights in China.

    The mail address for advice and suggestion is:
    The effective time period is: August 1st~August 31st 2004

    For more information on HBV discrimination in China ,pls check the link below

    Best regards,
    A HBV carrier in China

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