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。

我是一个汉族学生,我的父亲是一个孤儿,我的爷爷奶奶没有死在国民党或帝国主义的手上,而是在1960年在毛泽东的错误政策中被活活饿死,我父亲后来成为一名大学生,可是毕业后被迫接受共产党的条件,离开家乡到海拔为3500米的四川藏区一个叫壤塘县的山沟工作,直到1996年因病退休,才回到他的家乡四川盆地。他在那里工作的时间为1969-1996。

在藏族地区的教育条件是艰苦的,很难想象在那样一个教育、医疗和生活条件极其艰苦的地方,能有人考上一个高等学校,可是通过艰苦的努力,我做到了。在大学学习期间,我取得过令人骄傲的成绩,然而我等来的却不是好日子。

1998年我从四川师范大学毕业后,我到深圳市找工作,可是却突然发现共产党的政策都是谎言!因为,我被检查出携带乙肝病毒,无数单位拒绝了我的入职!而之前,国家从来没有对我进行过认真负责的体检!

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!

而我,并没有采取极端措施,我是一个善良的人,是一个始终热爱中国的人,当时也对共产党持毫不怀疑的拥护态度。我认为,自己是乙肝患者,对别人有相当的危害性,于是对自己十分失望,我害怕我自己会传染别人。我到政府管理的正规医院去体检后,医生告诉我,我的肝功能正常,不需要吃药,而且,就算是吃药,也根本不可能将肝功能的指标转为阴性;至于找工作,只有幼教、海员、直接接触客人的餐饮等职位会受到限制。但是,事实却不是这么回事!事实是,所有种类的工作单位都在入职前进行严格的体检,并拒绝接受乙肝病毒携带者,不管你肝功能是否正常!

在万不得已的情况下,我找到了一个医院的朋友,让他帮我作弊,进入了一家我并不想进入的单位。当我开始工作的时候,我开始注意到,在共产党宣传部一手承办的媒体上,有大量的“健康讲座”,这些“讲座”聘请了许多“专家学者”到电台、电视台做节目,把乙肝病毒携带的情况说得非常严重,与我在大医院被告知的情况亦完全不同,他们声称,所有乙肝病毒携带者如不接受治疗,都不能逃避“携带——肝硬化——肝癌”的“三步曲”,他们声称,他们经过国家或国际认可的最新最先进的方法研制出来的治疗方案——从中西医结合到基因治疗方法,可以使所有的患者在2到3个月内将乙肝病毒携带阳性指标“转阴”。还有电台电视台的漂亮的节目主持人应和他们的说法,并接听了许多声称吃了他们的药已经康复的热线电话——现在我知道,这些媒体的栏目实际上是承包给了节目主持人,节目主持人在广州、深圳等各地招揽一些医院和诊所来电台电视台举办“健康讲座”,而那些打来电话声称康复的患者全是他们雇佣给予一定报酬的人员,在中国,这些人被称为“医托”。

另外,还有公开允许发行的报纸杂志,无一例外地每天都是铺天盖地的广告,这些广告,无一不宣称乙肝病毒携带者全需要治疗,还有相当多报纸上的广告声明,由各种政府机构下属的医生协会将于某月某日进行乙肝康复的“义诊”,既免费治疗和送药活动。

谁不热爱自己的生命?谁听到肝癌这个词不会为之色变?又有谁会轻易去怀疑我们一贯信任的共产党政府的媒体的“专业化”语言和漂亮的共产党的新闻工作者亲切而又严肃的态度???

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!

sources:
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 (http://www.moh.gov.cn/public/open.aspx?n_id=8378&seq=). 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: tijian@mop.gov.cn
    The effective time period is: August 1st~August 31st 2004

    For more information on HBV discrimination in China ,pls check the link below
    http://regretless.com/index.php?p=823&c=1
    http://www.asianlabour.org/archives/001457.html

    Best regards,
    A HBV carrier in China

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