Chinese mother detained after protest against faulty vaccines

BEIJING (AFP) - A Chinese health activist has been detained for more than a month, her husband said on Wednesday (April 17), after she participated in a protest over faulty vaccines - a re-occurring issue in China.

According to police documents posted online by Mr Li Xin, his wife He Fangmei is under "criminal detention" at the Xinxiang detention centre in central Henan province.

He, 33, who had said her daughter was diagnosed with a neurological disease after receiving vaccinations for hepatitis A, measles, and other illnesses, participated in a protest against faulty vaccines in Beijing in early March.

She was later detained by local police in Henan province on March 5 and charged with "picking quarrels and provoking trouble" - a broad offence that Chinese authorities often use to arrest activists.

She has not been released, said Mr Li.

The drawn-out detention has "delayed the recovery" of their daughter, he told AFP.

"We hope the authorities can honour their word, release He Fangmei earlier, and let us continue to bring our child to the doctor," he said.

The local police in Huixian city did not immediately respond to AFP's request for comment.

COMPROMISED VACCINES

China is regularly hit by scandals involving sub-par or toxic food, drugs and other products, despite repeated promises by the government to address the problem.

Over the past year, compromised vaccines have become an incendiary topic infuriating parents whose children may be exposed to potentially unsafe injections.

In January, at least 145 children were administered expired polio vaccines in eastern China - less than a year after a major manufacturer of rabies shots was found to have fabricated records.

 
 
 

The pharmaceutical firm responsible for the rabies vaccines, Changchun Changsheng Biotechnology company, was handed a fine and asset seizure totalling 9.1 billion yuan (S$1.84 billion) in October.

In February, China's corruption watchdog said it disciplined more than 80 officials linked to the rabies vaccine scandal.

But the string of incidents has already rattled the confidence of many Chinese parents, some of whom, like He, have taken to social media or the streets to push for more robust regulation.

"The authorities should conduct investigations of any official wrongdoings, but not punish the victims," Mr Patrick Poon, China researcher at Amnesty International, told AFP.

"There is no legitimate reason for the authorities to detain them while they just tried to seek redress for their cases," he said.