Chinese AIDS activist released

By Advocate.com Editors

Originally published on Advocate.com September 21 2002 12:00 AM ET

China's most prominent AIDS activist was released Friday after allegedly being held for nearly a month while state security agents investigated charges that he leaked official state secrets.

Wan Yanhai, last seen leaving a gay and lesbian film festival August 25 in Beijing, said he was freed after he admitted that his publishing of a government report on the spread of AIDS in a central Chinese province had been a "mistake."

Wan said he is in good health and was not abused while in custody, but he wouldn't say where he had been held or discuss the terms of his release. "It's not too convenient for me to say right now," Wan told the Associated Press. "However, nothing that has happened will affect my work."

China never confirmed Wan's detention, but his disappearance elicited an outpouring of concern from friends, the media, and international health and human rights groups.

Wan, a former Chinese health ministry official, founded the Aizhi Action Project in 1994 to fight discrimination against gays and people with AIDS. Last year he called attention to unsanitary blood-buying practices in the central province of Henan, which he alleged resulted in the infection of thousands of poverty-stricken villagers. Wan said he was investigated because he publicized and distributed a report on the state of AIDS in Henan, where health officials have been accused of attempting to cover up the reasons behind the spread of the disease. Wan said he was mailed the report anonymously and did not realize he was breaking laws by publishing it on the Internet. He wouldn't say whether he has been formally charged with a crime or has signed a confession, though he did say that he acknowledged making a mistake.

During the period of his alleged detention, Wan was given an award by a Canadian health group for his work in fighting the spread of AIDS. His wife, Su Zhaosheng, accepted the award on his behalf. She lives in Los Angeles, where she is a student. Su told Agence France-Presse on Friday that she had spoken to her husband by telephone Thursday night. "He said that he will be back in America by the end of October," she said. "He also said he that he will be spending more time in America."