Writing from the broadly pro-market segment of the Chinese political sphere, Caixin has a detailed account of the rise of China’s new Premier Li Keqiang to his current eminence, with lots of focus on his time in charge of notoriously rough Henan province between 1998 and 2004. On the biggest local scandal of that time, the paper has this to say:
In the second half of 2003, Li convened a session of the party's provincial standing committee at which it was decided that all AIDS victims who had contracted the disease as a result of selling blood would receive free anti-viral treatment, testing and prevention of mother-to-child transmission. It was also decided that AIDS orphans would attend school for free and aid would be given to patients from poor families.
Well that’s as maybe. But given Mr Li’s eminence and the good press he’s been getting generally, we should also revisit this post on how the AIDS scandal actually happened and the vigorous attempts by local officials to prevent news of it emerging. Much of this took place before Li took office but locals still blame Li in part for the fact that precisely no official or doctor involved in the blood selling scandal has been punished. This strikes me as fairly unusual: somebody, maybe even a group of nobodies, usually gets offered up when a scandal breaks. Perhaps it’s due to the fact that selling blood was promoted as a poverty alleviation method by the provincial government as a whole. Perhaps also this is the subtext to Caixin’s exhaustive account of Li’s attempts to develop the local economy by other means. This would accord with the general assessment of Li as a pragmatist, as would complicity in a provincewide cover-up. If he was to rise separately he had to prevent a lot of people, so to speak, hanging together.
Anyway, from back in 2007, The Economist noted:
In Henan, the authorities may be hoping that time is on their side. Of Shuangmiao's roughly 3,000 people, villagers say more than 500 have contracted HIV. Of these, more than 200 have died.
Six years on, and with Li now occupying China’s No2 position, I wonder how many are left.