Chinese AIDS activist held in ‘legal limbo’

Amnesty International today called for the release of an ailing Chinese AIDS activist facing minor criminal charges who is at risk of being detained indefinitely due to a legal loophole. Tian Xi was detained in August for a minor property damage offense, and his verdict was expected several weeks ago. However, the trial has now been suspended, potentially indefinitely, through use of a legal loophole which provides no right to appeal for a resumption of the trial, or clear ability to seek bail. “Tian Xi should never have been jailed in the first place. We fear that the authorities are exploring every excuse and loophole they can to stop Tian Xi’s campaigning for the rights of people with HIV and AIDS,” said Catherine Baber, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Asia-Pacific.Tian Xi contracted HIV, Hepatitis B and C, via hospital blood transfusion as a child. He was imprisoned in August, after he swept items off a desk while confronting the director of the hospital that infected him. Tian Xi’s lawyer Liang Xiaojun has written on her blog that her client is detained in “limbo waiting for a judgement that may never come”.  Tian Xi’s access to medical treatment for his illness has been restricted during his detention, and he is surviving on his personal medicine supply. His lawyer reported after a visit on 24 November that Tian Xi appeared pale and weak, and that despite the coming winter, there is no heating in his cell. He and other inmates have been  provided with meat and vegetables only once a month. Before his detention, Tian Xi suffered continual police harassment, monitoring, and was arbitrarily detained several times during his battle for compensation from hospitals and the government for those infected with HIV through transfusions in state hospitals.  Chinese police had identified Tian Xi in internal documents in March 2010 as a target for arrest due to his advocacy work.“It is indefensible that an ordinary person in China simply seeking fair compensation for suffering inflicted by official malpractice should be persecuted in this manner” said Catherine Baber. “Detention in cold conditions, with a poor diet and uncertain supplies of medicine also put Tian Xi’s health at further risk.”Recently other AIDS activists in China have experienced an increase in harassment that prevents them carrying out their legitimate work.  In November, the AIDS advocacy organisation Loving Source established by Sakharov Prize Laureate and prisoner of conscience Hu Jia was closed by the government on tax compliance grounds. Another key AIDS NGO in China, Aizhixing, has also been subjected to an onslaught of bureaucratic restrictions and warnings by police, undermining its operations.  Its director Wan Yanhai went into exile in May to escape government persecution. Chen Bingzhong, a 78 year old former high level health official, published an open letter ahead of World Aids Day on 1 December, calling on Chinese President Hu Jintao to end harassment of AIDS activists, and also called on two senior ministers previously in charge of Henan province to apologise for the spread of HIV/AIDS through rural hospitals that arose through blood selling there.  The letter was published on the website of Aizhixing.