Changing China

Giant on the move

“You flu bigot!”

May 7, 2009

    Flu bigotry is not a term one usually encounters, but that was the charge hurled at China this week when it quarantined 43 Mexicans, despite none showing symptoms of the H1N1 virus. It was not just an anti-Mexican bias, because China followed up by quarantining 22 Canadian students who were likewise free of symptoms. Many of the Mexicans had at least been on a plane with a person found to have H1N1; there was no apparent direct risk for the Canadians, other than their being from a vast country with only one serious flu case.

But before accusing China of over-reaction, let alone discrimination, it is worth stepping back to consider the quarantines from Beijing’s perspective. Just last week, the World Health Organisation said that a pandemic was imminent.  Some have criticised the WHO for panicking, but governments do not have the luxury to second-guess such an authority when it rings the alarm bell.This is all the more true for China. Beijing’s laggardly response to SARS in 2003 let the disease spread to the point that authorities had to effectively shut the country down. Excessive caution this time around has been far preferable. The Chinese medical system is still rickety, rural areas lack basic hygiene and buses and trains are overcrowded – together combining to make China fertile ground for disease.A week-long quarantine is undoubtedly a deprivation of liberty. Yet if that is what it takes to prevent a global pandemic, surely the precaution is proportionate to the threat. Photo: A passenger walks past a temperature detection point for the control of H1N1 flu on arrival at Beijing Capital International Airport April 28, 2009. REUTERS/Jason Lee


Since Margret Chan is an extension of the Chinese government, the “eminent” crisis was created to make China look good, so is the “danger” of eating pork. We must applaud the tight cooperation between China and WHO.

Posted by Bill Rich | Report as abusive

Wow, great comment. Way to add to the conversation.In some ways, I think the quarantines were a bit much — particularly in the case of the Canadians — but Western sensibilities aside, media-wise I think the Chinese government had to do something relatively dramatic. Not just to look “good” for the cameras, but to meet public expectations. After SARS, the Chinese themselves prefer over-reaction to any perceived underreaction on the part of the government to prevent any potential pandemic. Ask anyone in China. So the government chose the option of over-caution — and subsequent criticism from foreign media and the Mexican government — over domestic outrage at not doing enough to protect them from another potential SARS.


I would look twice to identify the real bigot. There was no mentioning of the number of Chinese quarantined in this article, nor was there any mentioning of the fact that the quarantined Mexicans arrived on the same flight from Mexico as the guy who actually got Swine Flu.

Posted by bob | Report as abusive

as the result of swine flu ,the price of pork in china is getting down in recent week.the goverment and pubilcpeople still have confince to prevent the h1n1 virus fromspreading ,and the goverment will have a press conference every day to tell publice the lastest news that how is going on in you don’t say any rumor in internent any more,ok???


For longer than we’ve all been alive, governments have taken actions against the spread of disease. Ranging from travel bans and restrictions to mandatory quarantines for those returning from infected areas, every government uses these tools on an ongoing basis for all health issues (not only the one that happens to have the headlines this week).When they failed to act (or pretended away the issue), the result was the black death, influenza and saars (to name the obvious events).The question nobody seems to be asking is, why do folks travel to countries in the midst of revolution, internal conflict or terrorism from time to time, disregarding the more obvious threat (being kidnapped or shot or put on trial can be hazardous to your health)?The fact that infectious disease of every variety thrives in these environments is only an added bonus.A government can’t protect you when you insist on going to such an environment, but they are morally and ethically obligated to protect the rest of society from any threat you return home with.

Posted by Brian Foulkrod | Report as abusive

While the Hong Kong government now orchestratessome real measures to revive tourism and overalleconomy, they are pulling the leg by quarantininghealthy tourists arriving at airport, for a diseaseof curable flu. We now discover that ‘quarantine’becomes a word superior to constitutional freedom,meaning ‘administrative detention’ with no avenueof appeal or review. Why go to a place with jailterm dispensed by medical authority, you’re kidding.Airlines shall have long time to suffer.

Posted by Anthony Leung | Report as abusive

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