authorities have cracked down on groups fighting HIV and
AIDS, threatening activists, closing their offices,
and ordering that a conference be canceled, a human
rights group and activists said Tuesday.
actions raise questions about whether it is really
committed to fighting HIV and AIDS, New York-based Human
Rights Watch said.
individuals and groups dedicated to addressing the enormous
suffering wrought by China's HIV/AIDS epidemic should not
face police threats and harassment,'' Joe Amon, the
group's HIV/AIDS director, said in a statement. The
activists deserve ''praise and support, not
intimidation tactics by state security forces.''
comes amid a general tightening of political control in
China in the run-up to a major meeting of the ruling
Communist Party. The meeting, expected in October, is
held once every five years and sets the political tone
and direction for the country.
Zhu Zhaowu, who
heads a branch of activist group Dong Zhen in Henan
province, said officials went to his office on August
16 and ordered him to clear out the next day.
Zhu said agents
with the Kaifeng city Commerce and Industry Bureau said
his group ''is an illegal organization conducting illegal
activities.'' An officer told Zhu to ''watch
your back after you move out, because Kaifeng can be
unsafe,'' he said.
One of Dong
Zhen's activity centers in Ruanjia village was forced
to close on Thursday, Zhu added. Dong Zhen provides
legal aid to HIV and AIDS patients.
had planned to host a conference August 2-3 in
southern China's Guangdong province, said Dong Zhen
director Li Dan. But the manager of the hotel where it
was to be held said police contacted him and requested
it be called off, Li said in a telephone interview.
police didn't contact us directly, however,'' he said. Li
refused to provide specifics, saying ''I'm under a lot of
security bureau in Guangdong had considered the conference's
topics ''too sensitive,'' Human Rights Watch said.
A similar reason
was given for the cancellation of another AIDS
conference of Chinese and foreign experts, scheduled for
last month in Guangzhou and organized by the New
York-based group Asia Catalyst. The conference topic
was strengthening AIDS victims' legal rights, Human
Rights Watch said.
Public Security Bureau said it was not authorized to
comment, referring questions to the Ministry of Public
Security. The public security bureau in Kaifeng said
it did not know about the case.
husband and wife activists Hu Jia and Zeng Jinyan have been
placed under house arrest and blocked from leaving the
There are an
estimated 650,000 people living with HIV in China, according
to the most recent government statistics from 2005. HIV
gained a foothold in the country largely due to
unsanitary blood plasma-buying schemes and tainted
The U.N. has
praised China's work in combating HIV and AIDS, including
top-level government commitment, proper funding,
availability of antiretroviral drugs, and outreach
programs. However, the executive director of UNAIDS
said last month that Beijing still must reach out to
more patients in the vast country and overcome a lack of
cooperation from some government officials. (AP)