Chinese Authorities Prevent HIV/AIDS Advocate From Coming to U.S. To Accept Award
Chinese HIV/AIDS advocate and retired physician Gao Yaojie last week was put under house arrest by Chinese authorities to prevent her from visiting the U.S. next month to accept an award from the group Vital Voices Global Partnership, the New York Times reports (Yardley, New York Times, 2/6). According to Gao's friend and Beijing-based AIDS advocate Hu Jia, Chinese authorities from the eastern province Henan told Gao not to attend the Vital Voices awards ceremony, the AP/Washington Post reports. When Gao refused, she was put under house arrest to prevent her from traveling to Beijing to apply for a U.S. visa, Hu said. Gao's friends and family were blocked from visiting her or were questioned before being given permission to visit, and her daughter is under police surveillance, Hu said (Olesen, AP/Washington Post, 2/4). A spokesperson for the U.S. Embassy in Beijing said the embassy had "raised the issue [of Gao's house arrest] with the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs" but did not give details, according to Reuters UK (Reuters UK, 2/5). Gao in the 1990s alerted people in Henan of HIV cases that occurred through tainted blood transfusions (AP/Washington Post, 2/4). Gao also distributed material warning people of HIV and the risks of donating blood, Reuters UK reports (Reuters UK, 2/5). In addition, Gao has distributed medicine to HIV-positive people, provided cared for AIDS orphans and hosted people living with HIV/AIDS in her home. She also has written a book about the HIV/AIDS epidemic in China, the AP/Post reports (AP/Washington Post, 2/4). Chinese authorities in 2001 and 2003 prevented Gao from traveling abroad to accept awards for her work, Reuters UK reports (Reuters UK, 2/5). "We would like to believe that this is a misunderstanding because Dr. Gao has been publicly recognized by the Chinese government many times," Wenchi Yu Perkins, Vital Voices' human rights program director, said, adding, "We are talking to our contacts in China to understand what is happening." Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Jiang Yu on Tuesday said that she is not aware of Gao's situation. China is a "country ruled by law" that "protect[s] the rights of all citizens," she said, adding, "Nobody has the right to be above the law" (Olesen, AP/Forbes, 2/6).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.