Human Rights Watch Calls for Release of Chinese AIDS Advocate Accused of Leaking Documents About Henan HIV/AIDS EpidemicHuman Rights Watch on Tuesday demanded the release of a Chinese health official reportedly convicted of distributing a restricted government report on a blood-selling scandal that spread HIV in China's Henan province, the AP/Long Island Newsday reports (Anthony, AP/Long Island Newsday, 10/6). Chinese officials in August arrested Ma Shiwen, deputy director of the Henan Center for Disease Control, for allegedly leaking documents about the scandal to the HIV/AIDS advocacy group Aizhi Action, according to Aizhi Action Director Wan Yanhai (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 8/20). The Chinese government initially tried to cover up the blood-selling scandal when it was reported by Chinese papers in 2000, according to Agence France-Presse (Agence France-Presse, 10/6). Ma's arrest was at least the second legal action involving the report. Wan last year was released after being held for nearly one month by state security agents who claimed that he leaked official secrets by distributing the same report. Ma earlier this year had been arrested and released for the same charges (AP/Long Island Newsday, 10/6).
Gao Yaojie, a U.S.-based AIDS advocate, on Monday said that Ma Shiwen had been sentenced to 10 years in prison (Agence France-Presse, 10/6). However, Ma's wife denied claims that her husband had been convicted and sentenced to 10 years in jail for the leak and said he was innocent of the charges, Agence France-Presse reports (Agence France-Presse, 10/6). "The newspapers haven't reported it, but it's true. I heard it from several Henan health department officials," Gao said. Wan, who is now in the United States as a visiting scholar, also said that he had heard that Ma had been sentenced. Henan courts were closed Monday for a national public holiday and could not be reached for comment. However, an employee at the Henan health department said that Ma was on indefinite leave. "He's not here anymore. He's taking time off. I don't know when he'll be back. Don't ask anymore," he said (Agence France-Presse, 10/6). Ma's wife said that she did not believe that her husband circulated the document, adding that although he was in charge of the report, six to eight other people knew about it. "He was very dedicated to his work dealing with the AIDS situation. He put in very long hours. He did whatever the government wanted him to do. He definitely would not leak a document," she said (Agence France-Presse, 10/6).