Xi, who was in Rwanda when the news broke, called the scandal “terrible and shocking.” Premier Li Keqiang promised to “resolutely crack down on all illegal criminal acts that endanger the safety of people’s lives.” The government detained the chairwoman of Changsheng and 14 others, fined the company more than $500,000 for the defective vaccines, and opened a criminal investigation.
Yet many Chinese citizens have lost trust in the government’s oversight as Li made similar promises after another vaccine scandal in 2016, when 2 million vaccines were found improperly stored or transported. The latest events also recall the milk formula scandal of 2008, when 300,000 infants became ill after drinking tainted formula. Today, many Chinese parents still buy their baby formula from overseas.
China’s healthcare industry has long been known for its lax ethics: China harvested the organs of Falun Gong and other political prisoners, and although the government claimed it stopped the practice in 2015, independent studies found it continues today. China is known as the “Wild East” for biomedical research, according to Foreign Policy, allowing for radical experiments such as human head transplants that the World Federation of Neurosurgical Societies called “ethically unacceptable.” Harbin Medical University professor Ren Xiaoping countered: “I am a scientist, not an ethical expert.”
On Weibo, China’s Twitter-like social media platform, netizens raged against the corruption and lack of ethics in the healthcare industry. One user posted about the defective vaccines, “My home country, how can I trust you? You just let me down again and again,” CNN reported. Another wrote, “Our trust has been overdrawn again and again, it’s so irresponsible for everyone’s life.”
Compliance with ‘Orwellian nonsense’
In May, I wrote about China demanding that U.S. airline carriers refer to the democratic island of Taiwan as a part of China. That deadline came on Wednesday, and American Airlines, Delta, and United have bowed to Chinese pressure: The companies removed references to Taiwan on their website and listed only Taipei Taoyuan International Airport.