China: Fresh Arrests of HIV/AIDS activists

Four people, all HIV positive, have recently been detained in Shangqiu city in Henan province, after they tried to protest at inadequate healthcare for people infected with HIV/AIDS. Amnesty International fears that they may be ill treated while in custody and may not receive the medical treatment that they need.

Wang Guofeng and Li Suzhi were detained on Monday 12 July 2004. They were reportedly going to petition the national health department for not receiving the medical treatment that the authorities had promised.

The couple were also reportedly concerned that local authorities had closed down the school, for Children's rights whose parents were HIV positive or who had died of AIDS, which their Children's rights attended. The school, set up by the local HIV/AIDS activist Li Dan, was shut down after Li told the authorities that he was going to Thailand to participate in the HIV/ AIDS conference in Bangkok.

On 9 July 2004 two other people were detained after arguing with police at a hospital that was allegedly to be visited by President Hu Jinto. They reportedly intended to petition the President.

Amnesty International has issued an urgent appeal calling on its members to lobby the Chinese authorities to ensure that all human rights defenders in China, including Li Dan and other HIV/AIDS activists, can carry out their work without fear of arrests, harassment or abuse.

Amnesty International’s Secretary General, Irene Khan, while delivering her speech at the International AIDS conference this morning in Bangkok, called on conference delegates to demand that the Chinese authorities immediately release four HIV positive people detained in Henan province.

Irene Khan said:

“Wherever we look, discrimination and inequality are driving the epidemic. Wherever we look, HIV/AIDS exacerbates existing inequality and creates a fatal combination of stigma and neglect.

“But not only does discrimination fuel the epidemic, people with HIV face significant and ongoing violation of their rights.

“The protection and promotion of human rights is essential if we have any hope of preventing HIV and minimising the impact of the disease.”

Background information

According to official statistics, there are around 840,000 people infected with HIV and 80,000 AIDS patients in China, but the real figures are believed to be much higher. It is thought that up to one million people may have been infected with the HIV virus in Henan and other provinces through selling their blood to government-sanctioned blood selling stations in 1990s.

The extent of the spread of HIV/AIDS in China has become better known after campaigning by Chinese AIDS activists, who risk arbitrary detention, harassment and other abuses. Li Dan, who runs a charity called Orchid, which helps AIDS orphans in Henan, has made numerous public statements criticising official policy on HIV/AIDS in China, including official statistics on the extent of HIV infections in China.

Pressure from both domestic and international sources has prompted the central authorities to take more concrete measures to tackle HIV/AIDS over recent months. A number of positive measures have been announced, including the provision of antiretroviral drugs to the poor and free HIV tests. However, implementation has been patchy and discrimination against those with HIV/AIDS remains entrenched. The UN has estimated that China could have 10 million AIDS patient by 2010 if the authorities do not take effective measures.

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