Relatives of Detained Chinese HIV-Positive Protesters Appeal for Their Release
The relatives of a group of HIV-positive people on Wednesday in Beijing appealed to police to release the group, which was detained after protesting in front of Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, Reuters reports (Blanchard, Reuters, 4/16).
On April 5, Chinese police allegedly beat, shocked and detained 11 HIV-positive protesters from the Shahe province who were hoping to attract Wen's attention about their efforts to be compensated by a hospital where they allegedly contracted HIV through tainted blood in the mid-1990s, according to Beijing-based HIV advocate Wan Yanhai of the Aizhixing Institute. The protesters also were sprayed in the face with a substance that caused them to become unconscious, Wan said. They were then taken to a hospital and detained.
Wang Weijun, a friend of the protesters, said three women later were released after they agreed to drop their complaint against the government and not discuss the incident. The other protesters -- six men and two women -- did not agree to the conditions, Wang said.
According to Wan, the Shahe local court has refused to accept the group's case against the hospital, and the local government has not supported them despite making a pledge to do so. Although the Chinese government has acknowledged responsibility for HIV cases that were transmitted through tainted blood, many HIV-positive people who contracted the virus through blood transfusions have had difficulty receiving compensation (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 4/14).
A relative of one of the detained HIV-positive people, who asked to remain anonymous, said, "Our husbands have been detained, so how can we live?" She added, "We have come to Beijing to use the law to find out what happened to them." In response to repeated calls, police and government officials in Shahe have said that they are not familiar with the case or that it is not within their jurisdiction.
The detainees' lawyer Jiang Tianyong said police told him the case was a matter of national security, and they have refused to say what happened to the protesters or what charges could be brought against them. The protesters "just went hoping to meet Wen," Jiang said, adding, "They heard he was a person who cared about the people's suffering. We hope their husbands can be released as soon as possible" (Reuters, 4/16).