AIDS patients arrested in China

At least six Aids sufferers and others living in a village in central China devastated by the disease have been arrested for seeking government help, their families and police said on Friday.


At least six Aids sufferers and others living in a village in central China devastated by the disease have been arrested for seeking government help, their families and police said on Friday.

The six were detained on Tuesday and are being held in a jail in Shangcai county, Henan province, where many farmers contracted HIV/Aids from selling blood in unsanitary government-approved schemes beginning in the mid-1980s.

Five of them, from Wenlou village, had travelled to the provincial capital Zhengzhou to ask the government to carry out its promise of repairing Aids patients’ dilapidated homes, said Zhang Qiao, the wife of Cheng Fudong, one of the people arrested.

“Our home is broken down. Rain pours down from the roof. The government had repaired some of the homes in the village, but neglected the others,” said Zhang, who has Aids, along with her husband.

Another villager, Kong Wanli, was detained because he was among the most outspoken farmers in the village and had previously demanded government help,” his wife Wei Hong told reporters.

She said her husband was held because Prime Minister Wen Jiabao was planning to visit the village on Saturday.

“Everyone in the village knew Wen Jiabao will be coming here. The word has been spreading. The local officials are afraid Kong Wanli will speak out,” Wei said.

Wen is scheduled to begin a five-nation European tour on Sunday and it could not be immediately confirmed whether he was scheduled to visit Wenlou.

In December, when Health Minister and Vice Premier Wu Yi paid a first-ever visit by a high ranking Chinese leader to Wenlou, about 20 villagers were forcibly kept inside their homes.

A police officer at the Shangcai county jail confirmed six people, including Kong, were being detained.

“Six people including Kong Wanli were detained together. They are being detained for disturbing government office work,” said the officer, Yuan Xinmin.

“They will be detained for four to five days.”

Yuan said they were brought to the jail by the Aids prevention and control department of the Shangcai police department.

He said he was not sure whether Kong or the other men were arrested to prevent protests during Wen’s reported visit.

Kong, whose parents and sister died from Aids after donating blood, had demanded the government provide effective medicine to treat former blood sellers with the disease.

China last July launched a programme to provide free anti-retroviral drugs to thousands of Aids-stricken farmers, but health officials admit the drugs are old, less effective versions.

New York-based Human Rights Watch denounced the arrests.

“The international community is now giving significant funding to China to combat HIV/Aids. Locking up people who are demanding access to treatment is just outrageous,” Sara Davis, researcher in the group’s Asia Division, told AFP.

“Regardless of whether Wen Jiabao is going to the village, we hope he demands these people be released.”

Author: Edited by Trisha Shannon

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