HONG KONG—Chinese national security officers scuffled with AIDS patients and severely beat a prominent activist who was helping them, at the start of a five-day visit to China by the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, activists in Beijing said.
AIDS activist Hu Jia was beaten by national security police based in the eastern Beijing suburb of Tongzhou after arriving in the capital with a group of AIDS patients from Henan province Aug. 24, Beijing-based dissidents told RFA's Mandarin service.
They regard people like us as 'cotton wool'. The more they hit us, the cozier it feels.
"Hu Jia was beaten up," said dissident Hou Wenzhuo, whose home was under tight police surveillance during U.N. high commissioner Louise Arbour's visit. "He was beaten up yesterday. It was really serious."
Another Beijing-based activist, Zhao Xin, spoke to Hu while the activist was on his way to hospital after national security police beat him up for the second time in a week.
"On the first day of his return to the capital, Hu Jia was under close surveillance at his home," Zhao told RFA. "On the second day, he set out to take a group of AIDS patients from Shangcai County to make an official complaint, but the police wouldn‚t let him go."
The AIDS patients, who had traveled to Beijing to draw attention to their plight, were also pushed to the floor and beaten in the scuffle that ensued, Zhao said.
Calls to Hu's telephone went unanswered Tuesday.
"Hu Jia was furious at this. Hu Jia is a very noble person, very pure-hearted. He cannot bear to see evil things. He told the police that the AIDS patients had all become infected out of extreme poverty, from selling their blood. They have suffered enough already, and you people start pushing them around. He really got under their skin," Zhao said.
I haven't been out yet. I need to get some rest, and make preparations in case they detain me when I try to go out.
Overseas charities estimate that more than a million people have contracted HIV/AIDS in the central Chinese province of Henan, mostly through widespread blood-selling among extremely poor villagers in the early 1990s. The virus has spread rapidly over the last decade, with devastating social and economic consequences.
In some of the hardest-hit villages, more than 40 percent of the adult population has contracted the virus. Shangcai County is one of the most-often cited areas by Chinese AIDS activists in reports of official abuse of power and human rights violations against HIV/AIDS patients.
Zhao said Hu had been repeatedly beaten by officers from the same Tongzhou-based brigade already this year.
"Yesterday evening I got a lot of text messages from Hu Jia at around 8-9 p.m. When I called it was still going on. I spoke to him when he was with his girlfriend in the police van on his way to the hospital. The police took him there. When he was examined, he was bruised and bleeding, and he couldn't lift his arm. This was the second time he was beaten up in a week," Zhao said.
"Hu Jia has been beaten up four or five times this year, usually under the leadership of a brigade chief surnamed Tong. These guys are turning into animals," Zhao said.
"They regard people like us as 'cotton wool'. The more they hit us, the cozier it feels. But we will pursue those responsible. Because we want them to know this: We aren't cotton wool. We are people with backbone."
Calls made Tuesday to the national security police office in Tongzhou during office hours were not answered.
Beijing-based dissident Liu Xiaobo, one of several dissidents who signed an open letter to Arbour earlier this month calling her attention to China's human-rights record, said other prominent activists including cyberdissident Liu Di, Jiang Qisheng and Zhang Zhuhua were also under effective house arrest.
"They are just waiting outside the door of the building. They follow you. But I haven't been out in the past couple of days anyway," Liu told RFA reporter Gao Shan.
Liu said he thought the letter was the main reason for the tight surveillance, which began outside his home on the eve of Arbour's arrival in Beijing. Shortly after he said that, the phone connection was cut off.
Hou said police officers had surrounded her office and her home. "I haven't been out yet. I need to get some rest, and make preparations in case they detain me when I try to go out. I have to prepare for this."
Chinese State Councillor and former foreign minister Tang Jiaxuan said at the start of Arbour's visit that sovereign states should be allowed to use their own methods to address human rights issues within their borders.
"The government is really mixed up about this, to detain all the human rights activists during the visit of the human rights commissioner," Hou said.
U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour will attend a meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao and talk with other top leaders during her Aug. 29-Sept. 2 trip, intended to help China follow international advice on improving rights, a statement from her office said.
Arbour will also join Chinese officials in signing an agreement aimed at facilitating Beijing's ratification of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the statement said.
China signed that document, a cornerstone of international human rights law, in 1998 but has yet to ratify it as 154 countries have.
Arbour is also scheduled to hold talks with China's ministers of justice and foreign affairs and meet the head of the Supreme People's Court.
Original reporting by Gao Shan for RFA's Mandarin service. Service director: Jennifer Chou. Translated and edited for the Web by Luisetta Mudie.