Sat, Oct 13, 2018 - Page 5 News List

Woman missing as China quashes vaccine dissent

The Guardian, BEIJING

There are fears for the safety of a woman campaigning about China’s defective vaccines, with activists saying she has been missing for more than 40 days. Authorities have been clamping down on families demanding redress over hundreds of thousands of doses issued by the government.

Following revelations in July that a state-sponsored vaccine program had been using faulty serum, Tan Hua (譚華), 38 had been organizing parents calling for compensation and changes to how health authorities manage vaccines.

Changsheng Biotechnology Co Ltd (長生生物), based in China’s northern province of Jilin, was found to have sold 250,000 defective vaccines. It also fabricated inspections dating back to 2014.

Another major vaccine maker, the state-owned Wuhan Institute of Biological Products Co Ltd (武漢生物製品研究所), was also producing faulty inoculations for infants.

Tan, who claims she was the victim of a defective rabies vaccine in 2014 and has been protesting for years, was among a group of at least nine other protesters who were detained after attempting to protest in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in early September.

“Some 10 or 20 men in plain clothes surrounded us and caught Tan Hua,” said He Fangmei (何芳美), another campaigner, who was there. “I was trying to make calls to other activists for help.”

He, who said her daughter became partially paralyzed after receiving one of the substandard vaccines discovered this year, was sent back to her home.

Unlike the others who were released or whose family has received notice of their detention, there has been no news of Tan since she was taken away on Sept. 3. She reportedly has epilepsy and other health problems and had been seeking disability compensation in Beijing.

Authorities have tried to respond swiftly to the latest vaccine scandal, firing senior officials in the Chinese Food and Drug Administration and detaining the chairwoman of Changsheng, as well as more than a dozen other employees.

Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) said the government would “investigate to the end” and “effectively respond to the concerns of the people.”

Yet parents who have become vocal, calling for a vaccine law or more information about vaccine safety, have come under pressure.

“That the [Chinese Communist] party would rather lock up a victim of a very scandal its trying to fix shows it still doesn’t know how to protect social-economic rights,” said Frances Eve, a campaigner with the advocacy group Chinese Human Rights Defenders.

A WeChat group of about 300 parents, advocates and vaccine victims, used to mobilize protest, has been censored, He said.

He and others have halted their activities since the detentions.

“Our group of activists is like a plate of scattered sand. Some have been beaten. Some have been detained. Some are terrified. I will of course keep fighting for my daughter, but to be honest, I have no idea what to do,” she said.

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