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China shuts down
HIV/AIDS group

China shuts down
HIV/AIDS group

A nongovernmental 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.

Organizer and 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.

(The Advocate)

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