Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Zhang Ziyi gets an award--what does it all mean?

Zhang Ziyi has been named an image ambassador for the China Red Ribbon Foundation (CRRF), described as a non-government organization (NGO)that organizes support to children orphaned by AIDS. I don't know how NGOs work in the People's Republic of China although this one was created by the All-China Federation of Industry and Commerce whose membership is part of the ruling elite of the PRC.

In the annoying way that Chinese entertainment news is presented to English readers there are no captions that would identify those in the pictures--for example the guy handing Zhang Ziyi a plaque in the first image. The event publicized the work of the CRRF and, not coincidentally, A Tale of Magic the new film by Gu Changwei which stars Zhang Ziyi and which concerns a village that has been ravaged by AIDS.

This may say something about China's HIV/AIDS policy--or it may just be a photo op with a bunch of photogenic orphans. She was dressed like a suburban housewife and looked very sincere.

Pictures and article at CRI English.

The PRC's strategy has veered between problematic and insane within a context of telling the world and their own citizens that they didn't have a problem with HIV/AIDS. Kitting out some camera-ready kids as a backdrop for a movie star doesn't indicate a change in that policy since everyone loves orphans.

The Henan Province blood transfusion scandal, which is still causing harm to otherwise healthy people today, is mentioned briefly here  and in greater (and depressing) detail here.

Some information from academic deep thinkers, a newspaper account of harassment of activists and a report from an advocacy NGO follow:

Georgetown University's Center for Strategic and International Studies did a think tank type report in 2007 which concluded that China waslike everywhere else in the world regarding the spread of HIV/AIDS, other than the Henan Province issues:
The nature of China’s HIV epidemic complicates assessments about its future. The vast majority of Chinese persons harboring HIV are within marginalized, at-risk, and hard-to-reach populations, such as intravenous drug users (IDUs), commercial sex workers (CSWs), and increasingly within the migrant labor population. Moreover, the disease is found predominantly in more remote and poor areas of China, and it disproportionately affects ethnic minorities, especially in southwestern and western China.
As of the end of 2005, in some provinces, such as Yunnan, Henan, and
Xinjiang, HIV prevalence rates exceed 1 percent among pregnant women and among persons who receive premarital and clinical HIV testing. This meets the criteria of the UN Joint Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) for a “generalized epidemic.
The full report, a large PDF file, is here.

The Christian Science Monitor had an article on the treatment of Wan Yanhai, an AIDS expert who was hounded until he left the country:
Wan Yanhai has left China for the United States, soon after fellow AIDS activists Gao Yaojie also left and Hu Jia was sentenced to jail. Beijing is putting more pressure on nongovernment organizations. Mr. Wan, the outspoken founder of Aizhixing, which has become famous for its readiness to criticize the government, told the Associated Press in a phone interview from Philadelphia on Monday that “the attacks from the government had become very serious for my organization and for me personally. I had concerns about my personal safety and was under a lot of stress."

Wan is no stranger to trouble with the Chinese authorities. He has repeatedly been detained or taken in for questioning by the police since he took up the cause of 150,000 people in the province of Henan who were diagnosed as HIV positive after taking part in a government-sponsored blood donation drive in the 1990s.

Here are some numbers and analysis of the situation in China from Avert, a British AIDS charity that works throughout the world (although not in China) including in the midst of the AIDS cauldron in South Africa and Malawi.

This is a departure from the way I have been using this blog. It may be a one-off post or a presage of more discussion of social/political issues although the coverage of Hong Kong and Mainland actresses will continue.


  1. Just smile at the camera, and everything will be all right!

    Looking forward to more deconstruction of the stars. ;)

  2. My take is that it's part of Zhang Ziyi's (successful) image rehabilitation tour. Besides promoting her new film. For their part, the foundation gets publicity it wouldn't get without the benefit of star power appearances.

    A worthwhile film to seek out regarding the China AIDS/HIV crisis is To Live is Better Than To Die. Yesasia used to carry it but it's currently listed as out of stock. It's a gripping documentary that the follows the course of one entire family stricken with HIV except for their eldest daughter.

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