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Bangkok – July 15, 2004 – For immediate relesease ; from Aids Policy Project and Act Up-Paris

Activists at the Bangkok International AIDS Conference will present a petition to the Chinese government today demanding that officials respect the rights of people with AIDS and AIDS activists in that country. Ironically, four farmer-activists with HIV were actually detained by the police this week while the international AIDS conference was taking place. Two of the farmers, from Henan province, were picked up as they began a trip to Beijing to try to meet with Chinese President Hu Jintao, who was rumored to be visiting a Beijing hospital. In addition, this week a school for AIDS orphans was forcibly closed by the local officials and two villagers who attempted to prevent the school closing were arrested. The government officials dragged some of the children into vehicles before relatives came to demand their release.

Other sections of the petition touch on the need for China to provide care and treatment for all people with AIDS regardless of the means of transmission of the virus, the role of government corruption in the deaths of people in Henan, the need for outside access to regions of the country hardest hit by AIDS. But the detention of the four activists has overshadowed other issues.

Says Stephen Leblanc, a member of the AIDS Policy Project, “The irony is that while hundreds of Chinese officials are hobnobbing with international activists and experts in Bangkok, their local activists are being harassed and imprisoned by the Chinese government. This is unacceptable. International AIDS activists would like to be more positive about China_s progress on AIDS in the past year, but it’s impossible with Chinese activists facing arrest and jails.” The AIDS activists call for the immediate and unconditional of release of all four detainees and halt of the harassment of all people involved in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

AIDS activists in China, and even volunteers who try to help the country’s many AIDS orphans, are frequently harrassed, beaten, and intimidated by the authorities. As many as one million Chinese farmers became infected during illegal bloodselling schemes in the 1990s officials. These same officials covered up the epidemic for many years and now often harrass people with AIDS who seek treatment or redress of grievances.

Chinese, French, Italian, South African, American, Australian, Taiwanese, Greek, Canadian, British, New Zealander, and Hong Kong activists signed the petition, which expresses solidarity with the Chinese activists and demands access to science-based prevention, treatment and treatment education, and orphan care, among other issues. In addition to AIDS groups, several of the signers are eminent scholars of Chinese culture, such as Perry Link, who edited The Tienneman Papers.

Says Chloé Forette of Act Up-Paris, “The world is watching how the Central Government responds when Henan officials oppress people with AIDS. We see that they do nothing. Despite what they say, China seems to condone corruption and violence among local officials.”

Last year, the World Health Organization sent a delegation to Henan to investigate conditions. Shortly after the visit, press reports stated that local officials had sanitized the areas visited by W.H.O., forcibly evacuating people with AIDS and altering records. One woman who hid in order to try to speak to the W.H.O. delegation was severely beaten by local authorities.