Sun, Mar 12, 2006 - Page 8 News List

The rapid spread of Chinese maladies

By Cao Changqing 曹長青

Along with the opening of the National People's Congress (NPC) and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference in Beijing last week, the Chinese media, true to form, started praising the wisdom of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and painting a rosy picture of the country's future. That, however, is far from accurate, as China is currently plagued by numerous problems that are fast reaching frightening proportions.

Murray Scot Tanner, a US political scientist, recently wrote an article in the Wall Street Journal citing Chinese official statistics as saying that the number of popular protests in China jumped nearly ninefold from 8,700 in 1993 to 74,000 in 2004. During the same period, around 9,000 Chinese police officers died and 30,000 sustained injuries. An average of 67 police officers were killed annually over the past 15 years. This compares with an average of 36 during Mao Zedong's (毛澤東) time and outstrips by 10 the number of officers who were killed on duty in the US in 2004, a country where guns can be freely bought.

Some 26 million Chinese suffer from chronic depression. About 10 percent, or 300,000, commit suicide annually, making China the country with the highest number of suicides worldwide. In addition, roughly 16 million Chinese suffer from some form of mental illness, a number equal to the population of the Netherlands. What's more, these figures were published by China's Ministry of Health 12 years ago. It is true that people suffering from depression and mental illness can be found in every nation, but these illnesses all have something to do with an abnormal living situation.

Three other diseases could be seen as direct products of the social environment. According to statistics compiled by China's Center for Disease Control, the number of people afflicted with venereal diseases has reached 8 million, a figure that is increasing at the rate of 40 percent each year. China also has 1.15 million registered drug addicts, but that figure covers only the number of people receiving compulsory drug rehabilitation. Experts estimate the actual number of drug addicts at 4.5 million, higher than the national total of 4 million during the Opium War. Three years ago, Beijing admitted that the number of AIDS patients had reached 840,000. Experts, however, believe that the actual number exceeded 1 million a long time ago. The Joint UN Program on AIDS recently predicted that HIV infections in China could reach 10 million by 2010.

A study by Pan Suiming (潘綏銘), a professor in the School of Sociology and Demography at China's Renmin University, also revealed that the country has between 1.67 and 6.11 million prostitutes.

All these drug and prostitution-related diseases and problems can be directly traced to a society's moral standards, medical conditions and cultural environment. Counterfeit products, including drugs, are also rampant in China. Chinese media reported that around 5 million people are hospitalized every year after taking counterfeit medicine.

It is the CCP that is responsible for all these problems. While the party has poured a great deal of capital into its military buildup and intensified its threats against Taiwan, its investments in health care is pitiful to say the least. Neither does China have a viable medical insurance system. Government expenditure on education as a percentage of GDP is even lower than that of Uganda.

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