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July 2006: Reform of China's Health System


Following are translated highlights from the July 2006 issue of Ren Yu Ren Quan. A printer-friendly PDF version is available for download.

The full Chinese-language issue can be read at The Ren Yu Ren Quan editors can be contacted at RYRQeditor[a]

By the numbers:

  • Only 100 million of 1.3 billion Chinese people have medical insurance

  • 65% of the 800 million rural population who ought to be in hospital are not being admitted

  • Financial difficulties delay treatment for 36% of patients in rural and 39% in urban China

  • In 2003, the two-week morbidity rate had risen since 1993, yet the rate of those receiving care had fallen 17%

Special Focus: Reform of China's Health System

This issue's special focus was the reform of China's health system, with three articles by Zhang Yaojie (Beijing), Mou Chuanhang (Qingdao) and Fan Baihua (Nanjing).

On 28 July, 2005, the Chinese State Department issued a report on medical reform which acknowledged that "at present China's sanitation reforms are simply not succeeding," along with supporting figures.

A number of commentators attribute the failure of the health system reforms to commercialization. In this issue, three authors examine the problems based on personal experience and research. They indicate that failures should be viewed as the consequence of an authoritarian regime and that ultimately the solution to medical reform lies in constitutional reform.

Current Affairs

A speech given by Hu Ping at the 2006 Workshop on Chinese Human Rights in Taipei suggests that modern Chinese society combines the worst of socialism with the worst of capitalism. With no improvements in first-tier human rights (right to freedom of speech, publication, assembly in civil organizations, etc.) and significant regression with regard to second-tier human rights (compulsory education, medical insurance, etc.), China's record is poor by any standards. Hu Ping notes that China is not Cuba or North Korea, and that if this trend is allowed to continue unchecked, a powerful nation with no respect for basic human rights will present a serious threat to world peace.

If this trend continues unchecked, a powerful nation with no respect for human rights will present a serious threat to world peace

In "Constitution, Constitutional Government, and Rule of Law" Gong Shengli (Guangdong) emphasizes that the point of constitutional government is to limit power. Without such restriction, there is no legal safeguard, and "rule of law" becomes an empty phrase.

In "Hu Ping and the 'Democracy Wall' generation," Liu Xiaobo (Beijing) analyses the phrase "sick with cynicism," coined by Hu Ping, as an accurate assessment of the climate in China following the post-June 4th crisis. According to the author, the wide circulation of an essay by Hu Ping on mainland websites has led to the present popularity of the term "cynic" in mainland intellectual circles.

Also in July's Ren Yu Ren Quan:

  • Jiang Fuzhen (Qingdao), Liu Feiyue (Hubei) and Xiao Feng (Beijing) contribute to regular section Law and Human Rights Defenders.

  • Tie Lin (Gansu) analyzes US versus Chinese attitudes to human rights

  • Liao Yiwu (Sichuan) interviews a blind artist who survives by selling his work in the streets, despite being repeatedly detained by police.

  • Guo Shaokun (Jiangsu) expresses her support for recently sentenced dissident Yang Tianshui and opposition to his imprisonment.

  • Lu Gengsong (Zhejiang) reports on rights defenders' activities from May 20 – June 20, 2006.