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Law drafted to end Hep B discrimination
By Liang Chao (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-08-11 01:58

'Chronic' official discrimination against millions of Hepatitis B carriers is set to change with a new law that should give hope to people with the disease.

New national standards say that carriers in whom the disease has not manifested itself may still qualify for government jobs, the ministries of health and personnel announced.

Lawmakers have completed a draft on health qualifications for a recruitment drive, and the two ministries are soliciting public opinion on the draft from August 1 through August 31.

So far, public opinion seems to suggest that the pilot rule, the first national one of its kind, means discriminatory hiring practices like this will start to be dismantled.

Under the Constitution, every person has an equal right to employment. There is no legal basis for any form of discrimination on any grounds when it comes to working.

Experts suggest up to 120 million Chinese people, a number equivalent to the total population of France and Britain combined, are thought to be carriers of the disease. Many of them show no symptoms and do not pose a threat to their co-workers.

But they are often discriminated against when it comes to education, employment, healthcare and many other aspects of life.

Hepatitis B is spread through the exchange of bodily fluids, such as contaminated blood, unprotected sex, shared needles and infected mother-to-baby contact. It cannot be contracted through casual contact, experts said.

"They will not infect people if their liver function indices are normal," Ouyang Wuzhi, a doctor with the Nanjing No 2 Hospital in Jiangsu Province, confirmed.

HBV carriers should be treated as normal people, according to Xu Diaozheng, a professor of epidemiology from the Peking University.

The draft also made it clear that people carrying the Hepatitis C virus, but whose liver functions are normal, are qualified to become public servants.

The draft does not have any regulations on public servants' physical appearance, but said eyesight must be up to a certain standard with glasses.

The draft listed 22 diseases which disqualify people from holding posts in public office. Severe heart disease, high blood pressure top the list.

In April last year, senior university student Zhou Yichao in East China's Zhejiang Province stabbed two officials, killing one, when he discovered that despite passing all examinations and interviews, he could not take a job in public service because he was a HBV carrier at the time. Zhou was later sentenced to death.

But Zhou's case prompted a lot of bad feeling about discriminatory hiring practices, and the lack of legal redress.

Zhang Xianzhu, another graduate rejected by a State employer after testing positive later the same year, filed the country's first HBV discrimination lawsuit against the government of Wuhu, a city in East China's Anhui Province, in December.

The court backed Zhang's discrimination claim, yet inexplicably did not support his request to order the government to find him a job.

Such cases have sparked heated discussions in the media, and the local government has revised its recruitment policy for civil servants this year.

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