A Chinese AIDS activist and educator was released late last month after being held by Beijing police for three days. Wan Yan Hai, Director of the Beijing Aizhixing Institute of Health Education, and vocal critic of the Chinese Government’s handling of the AIDS epidemic, was detained by police on November 24, 2006. Yan Hai had been taken into custody on the eve of a “Blood Safety, AIDS and Human Rights” conference, which was to be held in Beijing, November 25-30. Because Yan Hai and the institute were the primary organizers, the conference had to be postponed. He was released on November 27.
No official reason was given for Yan Hai’s detention. However, there have been many reported incidents of intimidation by Chinese authorities, especially against activist groups that operate independently from the government. In April, Shanghai police halted a news conference by a group of people with hemophilia who were publicly claiming that they contracted HIV through tainted blood products.
Yan Hai, who was also detained for three weeks in 2002, received the Award for Action on HIV/AIDS and Human Rights from the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network and Human Rights Watch in September 2002. His wife Su Zhaosheng accepted the award for him while he was detained.
For years, Yan Hai has spoken out against the government’s slow response to the spike in HIV/AIDS cases in China. Only more recently has the Chinese government taken a more proactive role in HIV/AIDS surveillance and disclosure of infection statistics. In November, the government announced the number of reported cases to be more than 180,000. China’s total number of HIV/AIDS infections--reported in January by the World Health Organization and the United Nations AIDS program--is estimated at 650,000 people.
Source: Reuters, November 25, 2006, and BBC News (online), November 27, 2006