Local Chinese Authorities Declare HIV/AIDS NGO Illegal, Close Operation
Local authorities on Wednesday declared a Xinjiang, China-based nongovernmental HIV/AIDS organization illegal and shut down its operation, according to Chang Kun, organizer of the project, AFP/Sunday Times reports (AFP/Sunday Times, 10/19). The group, called "Snow Lotus," recently was awarded a grant by the Global Fund To Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria to educate young people, injection drug users and men who have sex with men about HIV prevention, the Financial Times reports. According to Chang, the closure is the authorities' response to the group's media exposure of a case that involved 19 students who tested positive for hepatitis B and were expelled from their schools. The expulsions drew "widespread criticism" of Xinjiang authorities because they might have violated a government ban on discrimination against people with hepatitis B, according to the Times (Dickie, Financial Times, 10/19). "They banned our organization and sealed up all our desks and work materials in the office," Chang said of the 200-member group, adding, "They also threatened me by saying that if I did not follow their instructions, I would be detained" (Reuters, 10/19). HIV/AIDS advocate Wan Yanhai said the group is "the first AIDS NGO that the government has officially shut down," adding, "In China, the government ... has lots of doubts about NGOs and fears those which have an independent and critical stance." Tu Erdi, a Xinjiang Civil Affairs Bureau official, confirmed the closing, adding, "Several departments are investigating this group at the moment ... they have no licenses, so according to government rules, it should be categorized as an illegal operation" (AFP/Sunday Times, 10/19). The police in the Xinjiang capital of Urumqi and the Nongovernmental Organization Administration declined to comment on the closure, the Times reports (Financial Times, 10/19).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.