Chinese netizens immortalize gov’t-censored vaccine scandal text on Ethereum

Chinese citizens are using blockchain technology as a witty tool in the fight against censorship.

A scandal involving Chinese pharmaceutical giant Changchun Changsheng Biotechnology broke out sometime last week after investigative journalists found that the company has been selling defective vaccines—many of which were administered to children. In China, it is legally mandated that all children be vaccinated. And the fact that the firm secured several deals to supply vaccines to millions of people has everyone worried.

It went viral and became a hot topic on WeChat and Weibo, which are the biggest social media platforms in the country. But then shortly after, the leaked articles outlining the vaccine scandal—including an investigative article titled “King of Vaccines” by a writer going under the pseudonym “Beast,” were taken down.

And now, the damage control has clearly failed. To fight the blatant censorship, in July 22, a user inserted the text of the censored article into the metadata of an Ethereum transaction—where no one, not even the government can take it down.

Not only has the Chinese government taken notice—so has the international media.

According to the report, the company scrimped on the vaccines to increase their profits, and therefore administered inferior vaccines for different diseases including those for diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough. An investigation by the government also says they falsified data regarding their production of rabies vaccines.

The article—now immortalized on the Ethereum blockchain lists a disturbing history with a string of violations by the company, pointing to some form of conflict of interest between the firms and implies collusion with some government entities, which could explain why they keep getting away with the violations and keep securing millions of orders.

“The vaccines they produce are constantly flowing into you and your child’s body every day,” a rough Google translation of the article says.

Ending the article, the author asked: “Is there really no rule of law for poor people?”

This is at least the second time blockchain technology has aided against censorship of a scandal in China. An open letter by a student named Yue Xin was also immortalized in the metadata of another transaction after it was taken down. The letter outlined inappropriate and oppressive measures taken by faculty members and officials of Peking University, pressuring her to take down information she wrote calling for an investigation of a sexual harrassment case that ended with the death of another student in 1998.

To see the full text from the censored article, click on the transaction link here, click “View Input As,” and choose UTF-8 to see it for yourself.

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