When Jack Wei graduated from college in 2006, he, unlike many of his classmates, decided not to apply for the big companies that he wanted to work for in Shanghai. His reasoning had little to do with a lack of courage, talent, or will, but rather something simpler: Wei was afraid of being rejected because he is a Hepatitis B carrier, and in China, this is a major obstacle to getting a job.
Wei then settled for work at a small company and stayed there for three years. In 2009, having found the courage to again apply for a major company, he received a job offer. But before he could begin, the company turned him away: He had tested positive for Hepatitis B. Discouraged and despaired, the then-26-year-old gave up job hunting.
“I felt like I fell into a hole and couldn’t get up,” Wei recalled. “It gradually pushed a normal person like me into depression.”
A combination of poor needle hygiene, a heavy reliance on injections and infusions in medical care, and a low vaccination rate have exposed a large number of Chinese people to Hepatitis B, and the virus’ victims are then often subject to employment discrimination. Despite a 2010 law banning Hep B tests in job and school admission applications, 61 percent of state-run companies continue to use the test as a part of their pre-employment screening process, according to the latest human rights report of the U.S. State Department. Companies collaborate with hospitals to test applicants in secret during the hiring process, and employees are fired if they test positive during annual physical checkups. As a result, victims struggle to obtain evidence and gain protection from laws.