Scathing article in the International Herald Tribune on what the Chinese government should have learned from its botched efforts to cover up the SARS epidemic. Among its insightful conclusions:


The half-baked reform of China’s health system is nothing short of scandalous and the country is now paying for it. Peasants — who can least afford it — must shoulder their entire medical burden, while the wealthy party elite and state employees enjoy a lavishly subsidized health system that consumes most of the state health budget.
Only those who can afford to pay can expect treatment for SARS, AIDS or other modern plagues. The Communist Party should be taxing the rich to subsidize the poor, not the other way around.

I know I’ve dwelled on this topic a lot lately, but I find it monumental. I was working on a report on AIDS in China just as the SARS cover-up blew up in the Party’s face, and the similarities between the two scandals is uncanny. There is one major difference between them, however, and that is what stands out the most: AIDS is still neglected and swept under the carpet in China. No officials have been fired for the cover-up, for the suppression of data and the quashing of efforts to inform the vulnerable public.

Reason? While I can’t state it as a categorical fact, I think I have studied the situation closely enough to offer an educated guess: With SARS, everyone is at risk — the young, the healthy, the elderly, etc. SARS is an equal-opportunity virus. It threatens tourists and businesspeople; it could even infect Party members. AIDS, on the other hand, selects as its victims those who, to the CCP, don’t matter very much — sex trade workers, impoverished peasants who sell blood in remote rural provinces, injection drug users, and of course, the group that doesn’t even exist in China, homosexuals.

At the moment, millions and millions of Chinese citizens are at risk of contracting AIDS, and the government is doing next to nothing, especially compared to what it is doing, finally, about SARS. Long after the SARS epidemic has been contained, the AIDS threat will continue to mount, even to the point of turning China into “the next Africa” in terms of AIDS devastation. This neglect, this silence, this willful denial of a tragedy utterly without precedent in terms of lives affected — this is the greatest sin that the Chinese Communist Party will have on its conscience.

The Discussion: One Comment

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May 22, 2005 @ 6:56 am | Comment

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