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Chinese Protesters to Government: You Gave Us HIV

Something is rotten in the Chinese province of Henan, where hundreds are protesting for HIV/AIDS treatment after contracting the disease about a decade ago through a government-backed blood selling scheme. (Tens of thousands in the province found themselves with HIV after donating blood for the project, while others were later infected through blood transfusions at Chinese hospitals.)

The Chinese government has never admitted any wrongdoing, and its claims that it will help the infected tend to go unfulfilled, as the Economist reports:

In recent years the central government has become more open in admitting the extent of the problem and has provided a little more aid to those affected. But activists say that local officials often ignore central-government orders to improve care for victims. Last month’s protest was the latest in a series of demonstrations aimed at persuading the government in Henan to carry out the centre’s wishes. Of particular concern is “Document 26”, a proposal issued in 2009 by the Ministry of Civil Affairs. It suggests that HIV-infected children and orphans whose parents have died because of the disease be given a minimum monthly subsidy of 600 yuan ($95).

Few local governments, which are notoriously averse to forking out for welfare, have taken up the idea. When they protested in Zhengzhou in April, demonstrators said an official promised a reply to their demands in a couple of months. They say they heard nothing. As the party prepares for its five-yearly congress in Beijing, officials are using increasingly heavy-handed measures to enforce stability.

Beijing’s inability to manage a decade-old crisis does not speak well for its ability to massage the popular protests that continually sweep the country. Until China shows that it can manage popular discontent without the benefit of a rapidly growing economy, we will continue to have doubts about its ability to assume the global leadership role that many believe is its destiny.

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