organization (NGO) that addressed HIV/AIDS and other
health issues, was shut down by local authorities on
Thursday, Agence France Presse reported. The
organization, which calls itself the Xuelianhua AIDS
Project, is based in the western area of Xinjiang.
volunteer Chang Kun, a 21-year-old student, said police
summoned him to their office Wednesday and later
entered the NGO's office and confiscated its
promotional materials and computer.
"They said we
were illegal and therefore had to ban us," said Chang,
according to Agence France Presse.
He alleged the
act was retaliation for the group's exposure of local
schools that had expelled 19 students who tested positive
for hepatitis B virus (HBV). Earlier reports said the
students were expelled under city guidelines to
control the spread of HBV, an act that was subsequently
criticized by Beijing since HBV is spread mainly through
blood or sexual contact.
"I think we have
offended some government departments because there was
a big reaction in the media," Chang said.
A Xinjiang Civil
Affairs Bureau official confirmed the NGO was shut down.
"Several departments are investigating this group at the
moment.... [It has] no licenses, so
according to government rules it should be categorized
as an illegal operation," said Tu Erdi.
"It is the first
AIDS NGO that the government has officially shut
down," said Wan Yanhai, a veteran AIDS advocate.
Though China has
been recently praised for combating its HIV epidemic,
AIDS activists and patients say they are still harassed by
local officials frequently.
"In China, the
government...has lots of doubts about NGOs and fears
those which have an independent and critical stance," said
Wan, the Agence France Presse reported.
China is treating
26,000 of the approximately 650,000 people that China
officially says have HIV/AIDS.