China: Net Initiative to Help Occupational Lung Disease Sufferers

Pneumoconiosis is an occupational lung disease caused by the inhalation of dust. According to the Chinese government's official statistics, in 2010, 676,541 people were found to be suffering from pneumoconiosis and among them 149,110 people died as a result of the disease. The accumulative death rate was up to 22.04%.

The real incidence of the disease it likely to be  much bigger, as rural migrant workers are systematically excluded from occupational disease statistics and are also not covered by the social security insurance system.

A netizen initiated charity project “Love Save Pneumoconiosis” was launched in mid 2011 and recently the group produced an advocacy video to explain the situation of rural Pneumoconiosis patients in China (see below). has translated the video's subtitles. Below is the video's opening script:

A special group of rural migrant workers: miners, construction workers, tunnel workers and metal workers.

Work and dust. They have contribute to the prosperity of the city with their sweat.
 They pay for our nice homes with their youth.
 They should be rewarded with happiness
, but eventually their most luxurious dream is to be able to breathe.

Their dreams were to feed their families. To pursue after this dream, they left their homeland and stepped into the construction sites and mines…

“大爱清尘”宣传片:数百万尘肺病农民被死亡威胁 from A Copy Workshop on Vimeo.

Prominent investigative reporter Wang Keqin from Beijing is the project leader. He explained [zh] the background of his involvement in his blog in December 2011:

A pneumoconiosis patient in Gansu. Photo taken from Li Keqin's blog.

A pneumoconiosis patient in Gansu. Photo taken from Li Keqin's blog.


Many people ask me, teacher Wang, why you are so enthusiastic in saving the rural migrant workers who suffer from pneumoconiosis ? My answer is very simple: if the university examination system had not existed, I would have become a coal miner and I would have become one of the pneumoconiosis victim struggling for my life.
When the companies refuse to take responsibility, the government units pretend they don't see the problem, while one doesn't have money to pay for the treatment but wants to live — I would hope that [if I were in this situation] someone would have helped me out and pulled me out from the grasp of the Devil.


As a journalist, I came across the term pneumoconiosis when doing a news report back in the mid-1990s. I worked for the Gansu Economic Daily then. The story was about an ownership dispute of a coal mine. I interviewed the Deputy Chief of the coal mine, Old Huang. He kept coughing during the interview and told me that it was an occupational disease from the dust of the coal mine, now known as pneumoconiosis.
A few years later, his colleague called me and told me that Old Huang had suffocated to death because of the pneumoconiosis.
For a long time now, the smiling face of Old Huang has kept lingering in my brain.


Then in 2009, pneumoconiosis caught my attention again. In December, I got a phone call from a Gansu reporter who told me that there were more than 100 rural migrant workers suffering from pneumoconiosis. Some had died and others were in critical condition. The migrant workers were looking for media attention but local media could not report on the case. They hoped I could help out.

Wang sent a reporter to Gansu to report on the situation. However, the report could not help the patients, who were dying. Interviewees passed away one by one in 2010. Wang decided to shift his reporting to social media forum Weibo to call for public attention in December 2010, and a number of netizens took immediate action to help out:


On 25 December [2010], netizens including ‘Beijing Chef’ among others reached Gulang. Many other netizens followed them. Together, they started the ‘Recuse Gulang Pneumoconiosis Rural Brother Action’.


Beijng Chef and other volunteers set up an online donation account and arranged for one patient to go to Beidai He Hospital to receive “whole lung lavage therapy”.
Under public opinion pressure the Social Security Bureau of Gansu province promised in a media interview that they would use the 6 million [RMB] emergency fund to help the patients.
Wuwei city of Gansu province also launched a donation campaign among government cadres and raised a few million RMB. After the spring festival, pressed by public opinion, the Gansu government set up an 11 million [RMB] fund to support the treatment of pneumoconiosis patients in Gansu.

Adopted by the China Social Assistance Foundation in June 2011, the Love Save Pneumoconiosis project is a consolidation of netizens’ spontaneous efforts in helping out pneumoconiosis patients in China. The project [zh] uses Weibo to collect information about pneumoconiosis victims in rural area and report on the project's work and spending.

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