Chinese government and media highlight HBV employment discrimination

14 February 2011

The Ministry of Health and China’s premier media organizations have all condemned the testing of prospective employees for the Hepatitis B virus (HBV), after HBV activists disclosed that 61 percent of state-owned enterprises (SOEs) still conducted such tests in contravention of government regulations.

Moreover, the survey of 180 SOEs by the Beijing Yirenping Centre showed that more than a third of those enterprises would refuse or be reluctant to hire people with HBV.

The report noted that SOEs could get away with such blatant discrimination because the fines were so low, around 1,000 yuan, and, in many cases, the victims of discrimination lacked the resources to file a lawsuit. In addition, the report said, several hospitals and health professionals were more than willing to conduct such tests in their search for profit.

In response, the Ministry of Health stated on 12 February that those hospital administrators who conduct HBV tests for companies screening job applicants would be fined, named and shamed in an attempt to ensure that the rights of people with HBV were better protected.

China’s official news agency Xinhua and the People’s Daily both covered the story and state broadcaster CCTV interviewed Yirenping’s director Lu Jun about the issue. CCTV noted that the media had reported on HBV discrimination for many years and that the government had last year introduced specific regulations banning the testing for HBV in pre-employment and school medical checks. However, the lack of enforcement has meant that the practice is still widespread.

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