Chinese Officials Acknowledge That AIDS Activist is in Government Custody, Wife Says
The wife of Chinese AIDS activist Wan Yanhai, who disappeared in Beijing approximately two weeks ago, said that Chinese government officials have "acknowledged" that Wan is in custody for disclosing a "classified document" related to HIV infections in Henan province, the New York Times reports. "Finally someone admits that Wan is in their hand," Su Zhaosheng, Wan's wife, stated. Wan, who founded the AIDS Action Project and was slated to receive a "prestigious" Canadian human rights award this month, disappeared on Aug. 24 (Rosenthal, New York Times, 9/7). 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 (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 9/6). Officials from the State Security Bureau on Thursday told one of Wan's colleagues that Wan was being held for posting on his Web site a classified document prepared by the Henan Health Bureau that indicated that officials in the province "were well aware of a serious HIV problem as early as 1995" (New York Times, 9/7). Wan also forwarded the report by e-mail to "hundreds" of people on his group's mailing list. The report, which was prepared in August 2002, is labeled "secret," and Wan is likely to face charges of disclosing state secrets for e-mailing information contained in the document, the Washington Post reports. Wan's colleagues, however, say that "there is nothing in [the report] that has not already been publicly released." The Post reports that Wan "mysteriously" received the report by e-mail from an unknown sender. Li Dan, a colleague of Wan's, said that she believes someone "may have leaked the report to Wan deliberately to set him up and give the government an excuse to arrest him" (Pan, Washington Post, 9/7).
China Seeks International Assistance
In related news, the New York Times reported Saturday that Chinese officials' recent acknowledgement of the country's HIV/AIDS epidemic might be linked to China's pending application for a $90 million grant from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (New York Times, 9/7). Qi Xiaoqiu, head of the Department of Disease Control of the Ministry of Health, stated Friday at a press conference that there are approximately one million HIV-positive people in China, but that number could rise to 10 million in the next decade if nothing is done to prevent the spread of HIV. Qi added that the Chinese government may be forced to break patents on antiretroviral drugs if foreign drug makers do not agree to additional price cuts by early next year (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 9/6). The Times reports that the government's acknowledgement of China's AIDS epidemic represents the country's "nee[d] to show some good-faith efforts on AIDS to help its application" to the Global Fund (New York Times, 9/7). The Wall Street Journal reports that Qi also said that China intends to protect international property rights in accordance with World Trade Organization agreements. China recently became a member of the WTO, which last year ratified an agreement stating that countries can bypass patents and manufacture cheaper versions of patented medicines in cases of public health emergency (Chang, Wall Street Journal, 9/9).