The ruling Chinese Communist Party routinely discriminates against more than 200 million people with high blood pressure in its government recruitment drive, lawyers said as candidates across China began enrolling for the prestigious annual civil service entrance exams this week.
Some 1.5 million people enrolled for civil service entrance exams last year, competing for around 27,000 jobs for life, known colloquially as an "iron rice bowl."
But a group of seven rights lawyers this week penned a letter to the government departments in charge of civil service recruitment, calling on them to revise rules banning anyone with high blood pressure from being offered one of the jobs.
A 2016 government report on cardiovascular health in China showed that some 270 million people have hypertension, a figure that is estimated to keep rising.
But stringent health checks linked to the civil service recruitment drives specify that anyone with high blood pressure must be considered to have failed.
"If we start to see discriminatory rules affecting people's careers and life choice, this will create injustice for a great many people," Wang Shengsheng, one of the seven lawyers who signed the letter, told RFA."
"We want to see some genuine equality in the guidelines for civil service recruitment."
'Various types of discrimination'
Last year, concerns were raised that the civil service recruitment policy bars those living with a disability or HIV from getting a much sought-after government job, too.
"For a long time now, the civil service recruitment guidelines have consisted of a collection of various types of discrimination," Lu Jun, who founded the anti-discrimination group Beijing Yirenping, told RFA on Thursday.
He called on the newly reshuffled ruling Chinese Communist Party leadership to make good on its promises to do more to end social conflict and inequality during the 19th party congress last month.
"They were talking about important social conflicts and unbalanced levels of social development as an issue at the 19th party congress that has just finished," Lu said. "The rights of vulnerable groups are a very important aspect of that."
"They have yet to be fully guaranteed or protected," he said.
Applicants endure five hours of written tests and interviews, including a rapid-fire multiple choice questions covering topics from mathematics and logic to languages, environmental protection and world affairs.
Successful applicants are offered government jobs in local and national governments, which come with a range of perks and benefits including subsidized housing, transportation costs and paid leave.
Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.