The plight of China’s Hepatitis B carriers

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.

UPDATE:

Thanks to a reader’s email, I’d like to recommend some charities that fund research and awareness about hepatitis B:

http://www.hepatitisresources-calif.org/hepfi/donate/index.htm
http://www.hepb.org/02-0084.hepb

The same reader tells me the following links could be quite useful to readers who might want to know more about hepatitis B:

http://www.who.int/inf-fs/en/fact204.html

http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/diseases/hepatitis/

http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/diseases/hepatitis/a/fact.htm

http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/diseases/hepatitis/c/fact.htm

http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/diseases/hepatitis/c/faq.htm#1b

http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/diseases/hepatitis/b/fact.htm

http://www.hepb.org/02-0173.hepb

http://catalog.com/fwcfc/livingwithhepb.html

http://www.hepb.org/02-0595.hepb#ques9

http://www.hepatitisresources-calif.org/hepfi/living/liv_diagnosis.html#hep_B

http://www.hepb.org/2-00-02-34.hepb

http://f.webring.com/hub?ring=hepring

http://www.geocities.com/Heartland/Estates/9350/hblist.html

http://www.comeunity.com/adoption/health/hepatitis/index.html

http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/hepb_ez/index.htm

http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/hepatitisb.html

http://www.hepnet.com/hepb.html

http://www.google.com/search?num=20&hl=en&lr=&ie=ISO-8859-1&safe=off&q=Hepatitis+B&btnG=Google+Search

______________

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.

The Discussion: 17 Comments

Actually, you need to put some of the US Embassy and Consulate people working on visas in the same category as your Chinese bureaucrats. Ask the Americans who are trying to get visas for their Chinese wives and fiancees.

April 11, 2004 @ 11:36 pm | Comment

Pete, I have already written very critically about the visa issue. It is unfair and it is arrogant– but it isn’t destroying lives the way China’s HBV and AIDS policies are. Not in any way a good comparison. It’s a shame so man people are frustrated and inconvenienced by the current US visa policy. But it’s not a problem of life and death.

April 11, 2004 @ 11:56 pm | Comment

thanks for sharing. i will help spreading the news.

April 12, 2004 @ 5:28 pm | Comment

Dodo, that’s a wonderful post you put up! Thanks.

April 12, 2004 @ 6:06 pm | Comment

It is a real problem in China. I have met some cases about this here. It is unfair for those who were already victims. China has to think about it sooner or later. “120,000,000″ can not be ignored.

April 13, 2004 @ 9:38 am | Comment

Don’t the Chinese government educate their people on how to protect themselves against contracting HBV? I think it’s very sad.

April 16, 2004 @ 4:36 pm | Comment

I woukd think the government does teach them how to avoid contracting HBV. But what about those who are already carriers? Must they be stigmatized and unable to find jobs? I find it incomprehensible.

April 16, 2004 @ 4:51 pm | Comment

I’d be surprised if the government was edicating people against catching Hep B. They’re only educating people about HIV now.

I thought the policy was ‘hide the victims from public view, pretend it doesn’t exist, then if there’s an international outcry, we’ll do something about it for as long as it takes for attention to be disracted elsewhere’.

I have dealt with Chinese bureaucrats. It’s not that they’re incapable of thinking differently from above, they’re unwilling to even try, since it won’t earn them an extra buck or get them a promotion.

May 27, 2004 @ 7:37 pm | Comment

Isn’t it tragic? So different from your home country.

May 27, 2004 @ 7:44 pm | Comment

Please help us—Hepatatitis B carriers in china.

The chinese health department and the state media tell the public: The hepatitis B virus can be spread when you are sharing food ,eating utentils or water with Hepatitis B carriers. (unlike the western food, the chinese like to take the food from the same plate). The hepatitis B is a very high infectious disease.The hepatitis B carriers are not allowed to take the job as cooker, waiters and other job for public service. Only after I went to the WHO and other foreign website, I realized that the goverment is misleading the public.

Due to the outcry of Chinese Hepatitis B carriers, the central goverment was reluctant to abolish the regulation that the hepatitis B carriers are not allowed to take the job as public servant. BUt the Public servants are still requested to take the hepatitis B test before they become goverment employees. It shows the goverment care little about our labour right and privacy.

In china, most famous enterprises offer health examination to their employees(once a year). The hepatitis B test is surely included. The hepatitis B carriers will be fired or not be given a job offer.

One thing I have to point out is: almost all the international companies in china( of couse including the American companies) say NO to the hepatitis B carriers.

Most chinese people know little about the hepatitis B, they think It is an infectious disease, working or living with hepatitis B carriers is dangerous.But they don’t know the hepatitis B vaccinate is available.The goverment did little to let people know the vaccinate although we have 1200 millions carriers.

It is true that the hepatitis B carriers in china are in desperate.

help!!!!

April 2, 2005 @ 9:36 pm | Comment

Given the nature of ‘education’ in China, I would say that the HB education in the country probably falls into the same catagory as the sex education given by certain nameless abstinance only groups who say that touching somebody’s genitals can cause pregnancy and that condoms work less than half of the time.

I can just see it now, OK class, to avoid HB, put on your chemical warfare suit and take pump the fuel for your flame thrower, now point it at your innocent coworker and ……..

April 4, 2005 @ 2:54 am | Comment

I’m a colledge student in China.
We China’s people can’t say anything to our goverment,but all over the country ,there are lots of people want to kill the leaders. we are under the goverment’s control.
Help me . Help china.

August 6, 2005 @ 11:47 pm | Comment

Jeefumn, I’m doing the best I can, I promise.

August 7, 2005 @ 12:55 am | Comment

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