Plaintiff to appeal verdict in China’s first HIV discrimination lawsuit

31 August 2010
The plaintiff in China’s first HIV employment discrimination lawsuit is to appeal a district court decision against him on 12 November the official Xinhua news agency reported.

The plaintiff, known by his pseudonym Xiao Wu, filed an anti-discrimination lawsuit in the Yingjiang District Court in Anqing on 26 August after the Anqing education department denied him a teaching position because he was HIV positive. The court formally accepted the case on Monday August 30.

In his lawsuit, Xiao Wu claimed that the education department’s actions “infringed legal regulations prohibiting discrimination against people with HIV/AIDS, and violated the plaintiff’s right to equal access to employment.”

Apart from legal expenses, Xiao Wu was not seeking any monetary compensation, merely a confirmation from the court that the education department’s refusal to employ him on the grounds of his medical condition was an “illegal act” (行为违法), and that the department take “concrete action” (具体行政行为) to correct its mistake.

Xiao Wu, a young graduate from a poor rural village in Anhui, had passed both the education department’s written test and face to face interviews in June. But in July he was told to take a medical examination. When the results came back the following month, the education department informed him that he had failed to meet the requirements (不合格) of the test and was thus barred from employment.

The education department does not deny the charges, and defended its actions on the grounds of public safety. “We believe that teachers should be responsible for students’ sound development. Our decision not to hire him is to protect the students. We definitely won’t change our minds,” a department official named Fang told the China Daily.

The education department’s justification of its discriminatory action clearly shows that prejudice against, and misunderstanding of, people with HIV is widespread and deeply ingrained in Chinese society. There are at least 740,000 people living with HIV in China today but because of the stigma attached to the condition, until now, none have been prepared to take legal action against discrimination in the workplace.

Xiao Wu’s lawyer said he hoped the case would help raise public awareness of the discrimination suffered by people with HIV, and protect the rights of job seekers in the future.
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