HONG KONG—Authorities in the Chinese capital have detained an AIDS activist from the southern province of Henan after he tried to use World AIDS Day to highlight the plight of people living with HIV in poverty-stricken rural China.
Tian Xi, 22, who lives with HIV, said in an interview from his home in Henan’s Xincai county that local officials were currently guarding the door of his home.
“Some people from the neighborhood committee are watching my home, so it’s hard for me to speak,” Tian said.
“At the head of the alley is a red vehicle with Canghe license plates. They are from the office for social stability in our township,” he said.
Tian said he was detained outside the Chinese Health Ministry in Beijing after he unfurled a banner Thursday.
Tian said he had planned to use World AIDS Day to draw the attention of China’s leaders to the suffering of people living with HIV in China, and vowed to return to Beijing.
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.
The HIV virus that causes AIDS gained a foothold in China largely as a result of 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.
Beijing-based doctor Wan Yanhai, who has written a book on AIDS in China, said he had heard about the detention of AIDS activists ahead of World AIDS Day on Dec. 1.
“I feel very sad about this,” Wan said.
“World AIDS Day is about protecting the rights of those living with HIV. If you don’t allow people with HIV their legitimate rights, if you don’t respecct them, how can you achieve stability?”
Beijing-based civil rights lawyer Jiang Tianyong said he had also heard about Tian’s detention.
“This man is very mild-mannered and yet he was still treated like this,” Jiang said.
“He was just calling for help. He did nothing immoderate, in either words or actions.”
Tian’s detention and surveillance came shortly after the authorities intercepted around 40 petitioners with HIV from Henan province on Wednesday and put them up in a Beijing hotel under close surveillance.
Most of them have since been escorted back to their hometown by officials, one of the petitioners, Gao Yanping, said.
“We are in a hotel found for us by the representative office [of our hometown] in Beijing,” Gao said.
“Whenever we go out, someone follows us.”
“Actually we are hoping that they will send officials from our province to get us, and then we’ll be able to talk to them,” Gao added.
Original reporting in Mandarin by Qiao Long. Mandarin service director: Jennifer Chou. Translated and written for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.