Chinese AIDS Activist in Police Custody, Human Rights Group Confirms
Chinese AIDS activist Wan Yanhai, who has been missing for about two weeks, is being held by police on "suspicion of revealing 'state secrets,'" the New York-based human rights group Human Rights in China said yesterday, the Los Angeles Times reports. The group said that a friend of Wan's was told that Wan was being held by the Ministry of State Security (Chu, Los Angeles Times, 9/6). Fellow AIDS activist Hu Jia would not reveal how he learned of Wan's detention by the federal agency. Hu said that Wan was being held for revealing the contents of an AIDS report prepared last month by the government of the rural province of Henan, which has been particularly hard hit by the diseases due to unsafe blood collecting practices in the 1990s (Bodeen, Associated Press, 9/6). Wan was a key figure in exposing through a Web site the connection between unsafe blood collection practices and HIV infections in Henan between 1994 and 1997. He also ran an AIDS group called the AIDS Action Project, which friends say Chinese authorities "forced" to leave its offices in Beijing earlier this summer (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 8/29).
Hu said that the detention stemmed from an overall effort by the government to silence dissidents before a Communist Party congress in November. "I think they wanted to shut him up, but didn't realize how well known he was or how concerned and sympathetic people are about the AIDS problem," he added. In the last year, Chinese officials have begun to acknowledge the country's AIDS problem, but "remai[n] deeply suspicious" of activists, the Associated Press reports (Associated Press, 9/6). Qi Xiaoqiu, head of the Health Ministry's Department of Disease Control, said he had "no knowledge" of where Wan was, and denied that the government had withheld information on HIV/AIDS or detained individuals for disseminating such information. He noted that there is "already a variety of published information" on the disease. However, he added that if advocacy groups are not registered, "they have to be dealt with according to the law" (Ansfield, Reuters, 9/6).