Word of the Week: Thoracotomy
Incision into the chest cavity in preparation for lung surgery. This painful procedure was immortalized in Chinese Internet discourse in 2009, when migrant worker Zhang Haichao underwent surgery to prove that he had a serious lung disease.
Before the procedure, Zhang Haichao had received numerous diagnoses of the lung disease pneumoconiosis. The condition, generally considered an occupational disease, was caused by Zhang’s employment at an abrasive materials factory near Zhengzhou, Henan. In order to receive worker’s compensation, Zhang needed to receive a diagnosis from a “legally designated occupational illness hospital” (法定的职业病诊断机构)—an institute that first refused to issue any diagnosis, and only under pressure incorrectly diagnosed Zhang with tuberculosis.
Zhang spent two years petitioning the government and finally underwent the thoracotomy to prove his condition. After an outpouring of online support, Zhang was awarded RMB 615,000 in workers compensation.
The case garnered attention for issues concerning workers’ rights in China, as documented by the China Labour Bulletin.
The Word of the Week comes from China Digital Space’s Grass-Mud Horse Lexicon, a glossary of terms created by Chinese netizens and frequently encountered in online political discussions. These are the words of China’s online “resistance discourse,” used to mock and subvert the official language around censorship and political correctness.