HONG KONG—Around 20 people petitioning major state-owned pharmaceutical company Sinopharm in Beijing for compensation after they became infected with HIV/AIDS have vowed to renew their appeal, following clashes with police in which three people were injured.
According to eyewitnesses and local media reports, three people were injured in clashes between police and petitioners at company headquarters Tuesday, some of whom were in their seventies and had traveled from Heilongjiang and Liaoning in the northeast, and Shandong and Anhui in the east of China, to pursue their complaint.
They arrived this week at the Beijing head office of Sinopharm, the state-owned parent of the Shanghai Institute of Biological Products (SIBP), whose blood plasma products they say contained HIV.
"We came to the Sinopharm buildings with a lot of confidence," said one petitioner surnamed Liu, a hemophiliac who says she was infected with HIV by tainted blood plasma.
"We we expecting to hold talks with leaders from the SIBP, but as soon as we walked in, we were given a form to fill out by a police officer," she said.
"It was a petitioner registration form, that they wanted us to sign. We refused to sign it, but then they said we wouldn't be allowed to go and see the SIBP people. It was because of this that the clashes started. We were fighting with them."
Three people, including a 72-year-old, were hospitalized following the clashes, according to a family member of one of the victims, also surnamed Liu.
The petitioner Liu said scuffles broke out again when petitioners, many of whom requested anonymity to hide their HIV positive status from people in their hometowns for fear of personal attack, protested at police taking photographs, trying to pull their camera away from them.
"We wanted the company to give us free medical treatment," she said.
"We wanted them to respect our rights under the law, and to provide us with a minimum level of subsistence income."
Beijing-based legal advocate Zhuo Xiaoxin said SIBP had sold blood plasma products to hemophiliac patients which contained the HIV virus.
"SIBP did this to make profits," Zhuo said.
"This act alone is fundamentally against the law. My clients eventually developed AIDS as a result of using blood plasma products contaminated with HIV."
"So they have a fundamental right to pursue a complaint and to demand compensation. Cause and effect are remarkably clear in their case. But the courts won't accept the case, or they send it back after accepting it, saying the case doesn't fall within their jurisdiction."
"The company hasn't admitted to this day any wrongdoing on their part, and they have refused to take responsibility for compensating the victims in any way."
China's Health Ministry banned SIBP's hemophilia drug, Factor VIII-related Antigen (Factor 8), in 1995, amid complaints that it was tainted with HIV and hepatitis B or C.
According to the state-run English-language Global Times online newspaper, the petitioners had asked Sinopharm to work out a compensation package by April 2010.
They had also asked the company to reimburse their living costs in Beijng for the last month and give each patient 1,000 yuan (U.S. $146) and six units of Factor 8, enough medication to get through the next four months.
Sinopharm rejected the requests, but said they were willing to offer each patient 5,000 yuan (U.S.$732) in "consolation money" as a gift for the New Year, the paper said.
Petitioners rejected the offer, saying the company was making the money look like a charitable gift, rather than compensation for any wrongdoing.
Wang Lifeng, the Party chief of Sinopharm, told China's official Global Times: "The issue is historical and complicated. I can't make a statement right now."
Original reporting in Mandarin by Yan Xiu and in Cantonese by Bat Tze-mak. Mandarin service director: Jennifer Chou. Cantonese service director: Shiny Li. Translated and written for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.