Chinese AIDS Activist Missing, May be Detained by Police
Chinese AIDS activist Wan Yanhai, a physician who helped expose unsafe blood collection practices in China, is missing and may have been detained by Chinese police, the Washington Post reports. According to the New York-based group Human Rights in China, Wan was last seen in Beijing on Aug. 24 attending a gay film screening (Pan, Washington Post, 8/29). Police officials did not respond to requests for information (Washington Post, 8/29). But the New York Times reports that Wan recently published on his Web site an internal document listing statistics related to the HIV epidemic in Henan province, where many of the blood collection-related infections occurred. Although the document did not contain much new information, some experts said that Chinese officials might classify it as a "state secret," therefore making Wan "vulnerable to arrest under Chinese law." If Wan was detained on state secrets charges, he could be held for a long period without explanation and may lose many protections, including the right to a lawyer. Convictions on secrets charges nearly always carry "long prison terms," the Times reports (Rosenthal, New York Times, 8/29). In addition, the Post reports that the Communist Party is scheduled to host a "crucial" meeting in several months, at which successors for the country's top leaders will be named, and that Chinese police have been "ordered to increase their vigilance against threats to social order."
Wan's AIDS Work
Wan has been involved in a variety of HIV/AIDS efforts and has "angered some health officials with his open criticism of the Chinese government" and its HIV/AIDS policies, the Washington Post reports. According to the Post, Wan was fired from China's Health Ministry in 1994 after advocating gay rights and promoting AIDS awareness (Washington Post, 8/29). Between 1994 and 1997, Wan was a key figure in exposing the connection between unsafe blood collection practices and HIV infections in Henan (Reuters, 8/28). Through his Web site, Wan published documents detailing how local blood collection stations infected as many as one million people in the province. Wan also had operated an AIDS group called the AIDS Action Project, but friends say Chinese authorities "forced" the group to leave its offices in Beijing earlier this summer (Washington Post, 8/29). Members of the group have been detained before, and the Ministry of Public Security had investigated the organization. Last month, Wan told Reuters that his organization had to shut down, but he did not elaborate on the official reason (Reuters, 8/28).
Chinese Government and HIV/AIDS Policy
The New York Times reports that Wan's disappearance comes at a "crucial time" for China because the country is considering adopting a "more aggressive" anti-AIDS strategy. The Chinese government is poised to submit a "major" proposal to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria that will ask for millions of dollars to fight HIV in some of the areas experiencing HIV epidemics "first exposed" by Wan. But the Times reports that the government's recent treatment of Wan "reflects Chinese officials' persistent ambivalence about the kind of openness about AIDS that virtually all experts agree is necessary to reverse the crisis" (New York Times, 8/29).