Chinese AIDS activist who was organizing a symposium to help
people with the disease fight for their legal rights was
released Monday in Beijing after being held by
police for three days, a colleague said. Wan Yanhai
was taken in for questioning by four police officers on
Friday and returned to work late Monday morning, said Wang
Lixuan, a colleague at the Beijing-based Aizhixing
Institute founded by Wan.
"All he said was, 'I'm back. The symposium can't
take place,'" Wang said.
Wan's mobile phone rang unanswered and other
employees at the office said he was resting and did
not want to be disturbed. Beijing's Public Security
Bureau did not immediately respond to a faxed request for information.
Wan has been one of China's most persistent
campaigners for AIDS awareness and effective public
health policies. He has frequently angered the
communist government, which until recent years had ignored
the spread of HIV, the virus that leads to AIDS.
He was fired from a Health Ministry job in 1994
after publicly calling for AIDS education and gay
rights. He founded the Aizhixing group later that year
and has since been occasionally detained. In 2002 he was
placed in detention for two months after he generated
publicity about tainted blood transfusions that led to
an epidemic of HIV cases in central Henan province.
In an e-mail statement, the Aizhixing group said
Wan had "resumed work in a normal manner." "Wan Yanhai
says that in his future work, he will positively seek
the support and understanding of the government and
avoid unnecessary misunderstandings," the statement said.
The symposium had been scheduled for Sunday. But
with police still present on Friday, Wan had ordered
colleagues to cancel the event, which was to have
focused on AIDS, safe blood transfusions, and legal rights.
It was not clear whether the organizers would reschedule the meeting.
Wan's colleagues said more than 60 people, some
of them AIDS sufferers and their families, had been
invited to the event ahead of World AIDS Day on
December 1. In a sign that organizers had anticipated
possible trouble, they did not publicize the
symposium's location but asked participants to get
details from the Aizhixing office.
HIV gained a foothold in China largely due to
tainted blood transfusions in hospitals and schemes to
buy blood plasma, where it was collected using
unsanitary means. Last week China's Health Ministry reported
that the number of reported HIV and AIDS cases rose
almost 30% to 183,733 in the first 10 months of this
year, from 144,089 cases at the end of last year.
Intravenous drug use was the biggest source of
infection, the ministry said. Health experts say
actual cases are likely to be four to five times the
After years of denying that AIDS was a problem,
Chinese leaders have shifted gears dramatically in
recent years, confronting the disease more openly and
promising anonymous testing, free treatment for the poor,
and a ban on discrimination against people with the
virus. (Audra Ang, AP)