AIDS Activist Sent Home from Beijing

Police remove a petitioning AIDS activist from Beijing just after World AIDS Day.
2008-12-02
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The Olympic Bird's Nest Stadium in Beijing sports a "red ribbon" banner to promote AIDS awareness, Nov. 30, 2008.
The Olympic Bird's Nest Stadium in Beijing sports a "red ribbon" banner to promote AIDS awareness, Nov. 30, 2008.
AFP Photo

HONG KONG—Beijing police have forcibly removed an AIDS activist after she traveled to the Chinese capital from central Henan province to petition the central government on World AIDS Day, Dec. 1.

Li Xige met Sunday in Beijing with Peng Peiyun, former president of the All-China Women’s Federation, to discuss AIDS issues, she said. But on Tuesday morning, four plainclothes police and one unidentified official summoned her to come with them and bundled her onto a train back to Henan.

At least I knew where she was."

Fellow AIDS activist Tian Xi

“They didn’t explain the reason, but I believe this was because of my petitioning in Beijing,” Li said in a telephone interview, adding that she remains under surveillance at home.

Another AIDS activist, Tian Xi, said Li had phoned her at 2 a.m. “and told me she was being taken away by someone—and then our conversation was suddenly interrupted.”

“I rushed to where she was staying and found that she had already been led away. I asked the doormen and learned that the people who took her away were police from Haidian district in Beijing. I called the police emergency number and reported this case,” Tian said.

Police officers came and said Li had been taken by other police, she said. “At least I knew where she was,” Tian said.

Phone calls to the Haidian police bureau went unanswered Tuesday.

Health authorities and UNAIDS, the joint United Nations program on HIV/AIDS, pledged Sunday to combat the stigmatization of people with the disease by unveiling a massive red ribbon, the symbol of AIDS awareness, at the Olympic Bird's Nest stadium in Beijing.

“Stigma and discrimination are major obstacles in an effective response to AIDS. We need to engage all sectors of society in China to combat these issues and work together to stop the disease,” Minister of Health Chen Zhu said, according to a UNAIDS statement.

Tainted blood

The HIV virus that causes AIDS gained a foothold in China largely due to unsanitary blood plasma-buying schemes and tainted transfusions in hospitals.

While health authorities say sex has overtaken drug use as the main cause of HIV infections in China, veteran activist and retired gynecologist Gao Yaojie has repeatedly said that infections through transfusion is a continuing scandal in poverty-stricken Hunan province.

Lawyers and civil rights activists say people with AIDS are constantly denied treatment in hospitals in China and have died as a result. Without heavy external pressure, children with AIDS are also denied entry into schools.

Official estimates put the number of people living with HIV in China at about 700,000, with around 85,000 people having full-blown AIDS, according to UNAIDS.

Original reporting by Xin Yu for RFA's Mandarin service. Translated by Chen Ping. Mandarin service director: Jennifer Chou. Written and produced in English by Sarah Jackson-Han.

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