Yet another “plight” post of a victimized group in China. This time it’s hepatitis B carriers who, according to what I’m reading over at Asian Labour News, are being treated worse than lepers. Stephen’s two posts on the topic are here and here, but it is absolutely essential that you read the comments, especially to the April 5th post. As you read them, you can hear an outcry of despair from desperate, hopeless people whose lives have been destroyed for no reason.
The Chinese government is unfairly stigmatizing a huge number of its citizens who are hepatitis B carriers– more than 120 million, 10 percent of the population — by turrning them into an underclass who cannot get jobs and who face discrimination on a level that you and I can scarcely imagine.
The comments of the victims of this insanity are among the most heartbreaking testimonials you’ll ever read in regard to the insanities of the Chinese government. There is no room for reason, for compassion, for science, for listening; the government is influenced only by dogma, superstition, irrational fears and misinformation.
These are the exact same factors that for so many years influenced China’s policy on AIDS: when someone was found to be infected, the very first thing the government did, by law, was contact their employer. Inevitably, the person was fired. Insane. Exactly the wrong thing to do. (I once wrote a long post on China’s idiotic and utterly ineffective approach to AIDS, if you want to know more about it.)
China is now getting better about AIDS, but only because its earlier approach has been such a spectacular failure that China is on the verge of becoming the next Africa when it comes to AIDS infection rates. The second reason why things are improving is the international outcry, with leaders like David Ho and Bill Clinton making highly visible efforts to help end the CCP’s pig-headed policies of the past and to make a real effort to help eradicate AIDS instead of just stigmatize its victims.
Maybe this is what the hepatitis B issue needs. Right now, these victims have no voice and no face; reading their comments on Stephen’s blog woke me up. Let’s hope the outcry continues and amplifies. When it comes to the CCP, calm discussion and rational explanation count for nothing. It’s only when you hit them on the head with a hammer, in public and in a manner that forces them to realize they’re in deep shit — only then do they take serious action. (Anyone remember SARS and what it took to get them off their asses?)
I know there have to be some real human beings in the government, some party members with compassion and brains and common sense. Are they ignorant of this crime against humanity? Are they unaware of the plight of one-tenth of their country’s population? And if they are aware (as common sense tells me they must be), is there really no one willing to do anything about it? What will it take?
Actually, my source of deepest frustration when I write about devastating topics like this is not that I don’t understand how the Chinese leaders think. It’s that I understand too well. I have personally dealt with the obtuse Chinese bureaucrat who can only think the thoughts that he’s been told to think and who seems oddly incapable of entertaining other points of view. (I promise, we in the West don’t know what this is like until we encounter it face to face.) If you want to discover what frustration is, try arguing with a Chinese bureaucrat.
Okay, I didn’t mean to rant so much, but if this utterly depressing topic isn’t worthy of a rant, what is? Again, I urge you to read Stephens post and its comments, and tell me if you aren’t moved to feel the deepest compassion — and the most profound anger. (You’ll also be well served to read the original post by Fiona Pollard that originally got Stephen writing about this topic. This post, too, has some fine comments.)
All those lessons the Chinese leaders learned (supposedly) about SARS and AIDS…. Can this alleged new wisdom not be applied to this other horror, to righting the unwarranted miseries of its 120 million hepatitis B carriers? Maybe not, but I can’t go to bed tonight if I don’t at least make my voice heard about it.
Thanks to a reader’s email, I’d like to recommend some charities that fund research and awareness about hepatitis B:
The same reader tells me the following links could be quite useful to readers who might want to know more about hepatitis B:
Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.