Human Rights Watch Criticizes UNAIDS for Praising China’s HIV/AIDS Efforts, Cites Harassment Against AdvocatesHuman Rights Watch in a statement released on Monday said China continues to violate the rights of HIV/AIDS advocates and criticized UNAIDS for recently praising the government's approach to tackling the disease, AFP/Yahoo! News reports (AFP/Yahoo! News, 8/20).
UNAIDS Executive Director Peter Piot in July praised China's efforts in the fight against HIV/AIDS, saying that the country has made progress in increasing access to antiretroviral drugs and that the government and society increasingly are willing to address the country's HIV/AIDS situation. Piot also said that harassment of civil society advocates remains a concern in the country (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/18). HRW said advocates in China's Guangdong and Henan provinces had been forced to cancel three meetings in recent weeks, in one case because the issue was considered "too sensitive" for public discussion, AFP/Yahoo! News reports (AFP/Yahoo! News, 8/20).
Zhu Zhaowu -- who leads the Henan branch of the group Dong Zhen, which provides legal aid to people with HIV/AIDS -- said officials went to his office last Wednesday and gave him two days to move. He said agents with the Kaifeng city Commerce and Industry Bureau called his group an "illegal organization conducting illegal activities." One of the group's activity centers in the province's Ruanjia village also was forced to close last week, he said.
According to Dong Zhen Director Li Dan, the organization planned to co-host a conference earlier this month in Guangdong province with New York-based Asia Catalyst. However, the manager of the hotel where the conference was to be hosted said police requested it be canceled, according to Li (Chang, AP/Washington Post, 8/21).
"The Chinese government's intensifying crackdown on HIV/AIDS activists deserves international condemnation, not baseless praise," Joe Amon, HRW HIV/AIDS director, said in the statement, adding, "UNAIDS should make it clear to the Chinese government that ongoing persecution of HIV/AIDS activists is wrong, counterproductive and threatens efforts to contain the disease" (AFP/Yahoo! News, 8/20). Amon said that "individuals and groups dedicated to addressing the enormous suffering wrought by China's HIV/AIDS epidemic" deserve "praise and support, not intimidation tactics by state security forces" (AP/Washington Post, 8/21). He added, "If the Chinese government had devoted as much energy to halting the epidemic as it has to persecuting activists, untold numbers of lives could have been saved" (AFP/Yahoo! News, 8/20).
According to the AP/Post, officials did not comment immediately on the cases. The Guangdong Public Security Bureau said it is not authorized to discuss the matter and referred questions to the Ministry of Public Security. The public security bureau in Kaifeng said it is not aware of the cases (AP/Washington Post, 8/21). An estimated 650,000 people are living with HIV/AIDS in China, and health experts say the disease is spreading to the general population primarily by sexual transmission (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 8/16).
The HRW statement is available online. This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.