Chinas Henan Sets Up Prison For AIDS Patients

Feb. 21, 2004. Chinese officials talk to an AIDS patient during a visit to Wenlou village, Henan. Photo: AFP

HONG KONG—Authorities in the central Chinese province of Henan are preparing a prison facility in at least one location for AIDS patients who cause trouble by complaining about their treatment at the hands of local officials, a recent report by RFA's Mandarin service has revealed.

One facility was being built at Ningling County, near the city of Shangqiu, local sources said.

"They haven't built any new special prison but have moved prisoners to other places and will use the vacated cells as a detention center to lock up AIDS patients," an anonymous source inside a similar nearby prison told RFA reporter Fang Yuan.

"This is being done quietly. It is said that the detention center has been staffed with doctors and equipped with a pharmacy," the source, at Shangcai county prison, said.

"AIDS patients who are alleged to have violated law and discipline will be locked up there," he told RFA.

List of troublemakers

Sources said HIV/AIDS patients who had been to Beijing to register complaints over official mistreatment with higher authorities would be targeted, but those who frequently visited local authorities were also at risk of incarceration.

During the recent annual session of China's parliament in March, the Shangqiu municipal Communist Party Secretary ordered all county officials to submit lists of local HIV/AIDS patients who had already been to Beijing, so they could be prevented from traveling to Beijing and embarassing their local authorities during the top-level meeting, a source inside the prison said.

Official documents showed that local police officers had already been taken on incognito visits in unmarked cars to view the facility, during a recent law enforcement conference in the area, a source told RFA.

There are also fears that a second facility may be being prepared elsewhere in Henan, which was severely hit by an HIV/AIDS epidemic following a wave of blood-selling by poor rural communities during the 1980s and 1990s.

An official on duty at the Ningling county government denied the reports.

Impending crackdown likely

"How can it be a prison for AIDS patients? How can this happen in today’s society, where we have the rule of law? Those who have contracted AIDS are patients. They have not broken the law," he said.

"There are AIDS patients all over the area. Who would dare to lock them up? What is under construction is a hospital for AIDS patients...No, it is for patients who have contracted AIDS, sorry, I mean infectious diseases."

One of China's most prominent social activists, Hu Jia, who has a special interest in the plight of HIV/AIDS sufferers, said he had confirmed that the facility at Ningling was indeed to be used as a prison, through several reliable channels.

"Such a place will never have a signboard hung at its entrance for fear of community resentment. But we have verified this case through various channels," Hu told RFA.

He said one method used to verify the story was a phone call to a senior police officer at Sui county, also in the Shangqiu area. That officer appeared to warn the caller of an impending crackdown.

AIDS patient urged to flee

"The call was placed by a local AIDS patient. He said bluntly to the police officer that it was the government that asked him and others to sell blood and, as a result, they were infected," Hu said.

"He asked the officer to tell him where they would be locked up so that their families would be able to take food to them. The officer refused to disclose the exact location of the prison but advised him to run away and go into hiding," he added.

China's official Xinhua news agency said Henan was planning a raft of new measures for AIDS patients in the province, where official records show 25,036 people have been confirmed HIV-positive, with 11,815 cases of full-blown AIDS by the end of 2004.

Henan spent 334 million yuan (U.S.$40.2 million) last year in free medical treatment, education for orphans of AIDS patients, and care of the elderly in the province's 38 worst-hit villages, the agency said.

Original reporting in Mandarin by Fang Yuan. RFA Mandarin service director: Jennifer Chou. Online production by the Mandarin Web team and Luisetta Mudie.


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