Chinese AIDS Advocate Arrested in Henan Province While Preparing To Protest Government AIDS Policies, Advocates Say
Chinese AIDS advocate Li Dan on Sunday was detained by local government officials in Henan province while preparing to join in a protest of government HIV/AIDS policies, according to HIV/AIDS advocates, VOA News reports (Bayron, VOA News, 8/10). Local AIDS advocates said that Li was "abduct[ed]" by government officials in an effort to "cover up" the local AIDS epidemic, according to Agence France-Presse. "They took him away without an arrest warrant or any other official document, so that is why we consider this a kidnapping," Beijing-based AIDS advocate Wan Yanhai said. Wan said that Li and a colleague at first were being held in a local hotel, after which Li's colleague was released and Li was taken to an "undisclosed location," according to Agence France-Presse. Local police have said they did not know anything about Li's disappearance, Agence France-Presse reports (Agence France-Presse, 8/8).
Six Other Advocates Plead Guilty to Charges
Six AIDS advocates from Henan province who were detained in July pleaded guilty to charges including fraud and disruption of social order and were allowed to return home, the South China Morning Post reports. Among the advocates were Pan Zhongfeng, Fan Zhenbang, Wang Guofeng and Li Suzhi (Chan, South China Morning Post, 8/8). Fan and Pan were arrested in early July and were expected to remain in detention for 30 days. They were part of a group of 20 to 30 villagers who in March broke into the hospital where they say they were infected with HIV through a government-sponsored blood collection program. Although the police watched the protestors break in and take equipment from the hospital, they did not stop the protestors or arrest them at that time (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 8/3). The six advocates who pleaded guilty received one-year prison sentences under which they are allowed to return home but are required to report to authorities whenever they are called; prohibited from speaking to the media; and cannot leave the county without government approval, according to the Morning Post. Some local AIDS advocates "dismissed" the pleas, saying that the six advocates were "forced to admit to the charges," according to the Morning Post (South China Morning Post, 8/8).
Henan province gained international attention in the early 1990s after it was discovered that farmers there were among hundreds of thousands of poor Chinese who contracted HIV through a government-sponsored blood collection program. The program paid farmers for their blood and sold it at state hospitals and private clinics. The Chinese government estimates that there are 840,000 HIV-positive people in the country and that 80,000 people have AIDS; however, some experts believe that those figures are an underestimate. The United Nations estimates that there are at least one million HIV-positive people in China (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 8/3).