China must halt harassment and censorship of HIV/AIDS activists

Chinese security forces last night cancelled a documentary screening by an HIV/AIDS education group, which Amnesty International is strongly criticising as part of the ongoing harassment of peaceful public health educators.“Harassing and curtailing HIV/AIDS activism in China poses a real threat to effective HIV/AIDS prevention, with dire consequences for the right to health,” said Catherine Baber, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Deputy Director. China’s internal security police questioned staff of the Beijing HIV/AIDS education NGO Aizhixing Institute of Health Education on 7 July and instructed them to cancel the show planned for 8 July.  The film screening did not go ahead and the Aizhixing event-organiser has resigned from coordinating the event. Aizhixing staff have been so frequently subjected to questioning and harassment that the director Wan Yanhai left China in May 2010 to avoid constant police interrogations and detentions.  The organization’s offices have been subjected to an endless series of government checks on their bank accounts, licenses, and fire safety, with the aim of disrupting work and intimidating staff.  On 7 July, police also questioned and intimidated the documentary film-maker, and the subject of the documentary, a 23-year-old university graduate called Tian Xi living with HIV/AIDs.  Documentary-maker Laohu Miao was warned by police that the film could threaten social stability by arousing audience emotion.  Laohu Miao, a pen-name meaning ‘Tiger Temple’, is a well known blogger and tweeter on human rights issues, with the twitter handle @24hour. Police warned Tian Xi, the documentary-subject, against taking part in any public protest on HIV/AIDS issues.  Tian Xi was infected at the age of nine through a blood transfusion.  The documentary showed him as a positive example of a person living their life with HIV/AIDS.  Tian Xi has been active in calls for compensation for HIV/AIDS patients infected when receiving healthcare, and for hospitals to address medical malpractice.  Aizhixing is a pun on the Chinese term for HIV/AIDS ‘Aizibing’, replacing the word ‘illness’ with ‘action’.  The organization has lobbied the Chinese government to review HIV/AIDS policies and resource use, for example to provide better care to HIV/AIDS patients, and provide accountability for people infected through medical malpractice and blood transfusions.