Release of AIDS Activist from Unlawful Detention Raises Concern about Unchecked Police Power

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Immediate release, CRD

November 27, 2006

Release of AIDS Activist from Unlawful Detention Raises Concern about Unchecked Police Power, Ban on Conference on Rights of People with HIV/AIDS Remains Firm

Today’s release of Chinese AIDS activist Wan Yanhai, a founding member and leader of Beijing AIZHIXING Institute, from police detention, apparently in order to force the Institute to shut down a conference on rights of people living with HIV/AIDS, raises serious concerns, once again, about the unchecked police power in intimidating activists and suppressing civil society demands for rights protection. Dr. Wan disappeared for more than 48 hours, exceeding the legal limit, after he was taken in for questioning by Beijing police, who never produced any legal authorization, on November 24, 2006. Police denied knowledge of his whereabouts.

Dr. Wan Yanhai went on missing after he called from an unspecified location at about 6pm on Friday, saying he was still under police interrogation. He had been questioned all day that day by four plainclothes men identifying themselves as police from the Beijing Public Security Bureau (PSB). The police had first questioned him at the management office in the building where AIZHIXING’s office is located. As recalled later by the manager, the police did show him their badges. At one point, some staff members of the Institute were called into the management office. In the presence of the police, Wan Yanhai told them to cancel the “Blood Safety, AIDS and Legal Human Rights” Workshop, which was scheduled to be held on November 26, and to arrange the return of participants who had arrived in Beijing. Police then took Mr. Wan away.

Some of the participants in the workshop are people infected with HIV/AIDS through blood transfusion. As Beijing police begin tightening security for next year’s Party Congress and cleaning up for the 2008 Olympics, they have implemented measures to block people from coming to the nation’s capital to stage demonstrations or petition government offices. Authorities are nervous about poor villagers living with HIV/AIDS and have apparently treated them as “undesired” visitors. Some of them have staged protests in front of the Ministry of Health in the past to demand accountability and compensation. Many Chinese living with HIV/AIDS became infected by contaminated blood products used in state-run hospitals or made by state pharmaceutical companies in the 1980s-1990s. An activist from Henan, Li Xige, who was infected with the viruses and one of her daughters died of AIDS, was intercepted by officials from her hometown, Ningling Country, at the Beijing train station and sent back to Henan on November 21, when she arrived in Beijing to attend the workshop.

Having learned from his own experiences, Dr. Wan understands that the rights of Chinese living with HIV/AIDS and health rights in general are human rights; without improving China’s civil-political rights protections, there cannot be any guarantee of protection of health rights. Though he has focused on AIDS and public health, he has acted from time to time to promote civil-political rights and assist victims of human rights abuses. For this, he has often been warned and threatened by police and told to retreat to his group’s special area of focus. Each time, he has done so in order for AIZHIXING to continue its work on AIDS and health rights. However, Dr. Wan, like all Chinese citizens, has a right to promote and defend human rights and he should be protected by the Chinese government for exercising that right. Punishing a human rights defender like Dr. Wan violates the UN “Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.” (Adopted by General Assembly Resolution A/RES/53/144)

According to Article 83 of the PRC Public Order Management Punishment Law (zhonghua renmin gongheguo zhian guanli chufa fa) and Article 47 of the Regulations on Procedures of Processing Administrative Detention by Public Security Authorities (gongan jiguan banli xingzheng anjian chengxu guiding), Public Security officials cannot taken someone in for questioning or to give testimony for more than 8 hours; in complicated cases which may involve administrative detention punishment, the time limit is no more than 24 hours. These regulations also require the PSB to inform the family of the cause and location of the detention for questioning. The PRC People’s Police Law (zhonghua renmin gongheguo renmin jingcha fa), Article 9, allows for a 48-hour period of detention for questioning in special cases, with the approval of PSB above the county level. If the detainee is kept longer, the PSB must immediately inform the family or the employer.

CRD welcomes the release, but believes the Beijing Public Security Bureau’s power must be checked by Chinese law. It should never practice this kind of unlawful detention for questioning in carrying out its law enforcement duties. The PSB must inform a detainee’s family or his/her employer the cause and location of the detention for questioning.

CRD condemns the Beijing PSB for forcing the AIZHIXING Institute to cancel its scheduled workshop on the rights of people infected with HIV/AIDS through blood transfusion. This action violates constitutional protections of citizens’ rights to free assembly and free expression. People living with HIV/AIDS due to blood transfusion should be allowed to visit or hand in letters to relevant government offices about their grievances and seek redress through the government-operated petition system.

CRD urges major players in the international community, particularly donors to China’s fight against AIDS and world health organizations, to pay close attention to the hazardous conditions obstructing the work of Chinese AIDS NGOs and civil society participation. They cannot afford illusions about China’s public pledges to work with civil society in its fight against the spread of HIV/AIDS when the police continue to enjoy legal immunity in using unlawful means to intimidate and suppress people living with HIV/AIDS, activists, and AIDS NGOs.


Wan Yanhai, male, Chinese AIDS activist, public health expert. Dr. Wan is the director of Beijing ZHIAIXING Information & Counseling Center (AIZHIXING Institute), an affiliated Researcher and advisor of the Center for Public Health and Human Rights at the Johns Hopkins University, member of board directors of China STD/HIV/AIDS Prevention and Treatment Association, standing member of board directors of Beijing STD/HIV/AIDS Prevention and Treatment Association, member of Developing Country NGO Delegation of Global Fund Board Meeting. Dr. Wan was instrumental in exposing a HIV/AIDS epidemic in rural Henan resulting from the unsafe commercial blood business. His group has worked to push the government towards greater transparency and more effective action to prevent and treat AIDS. He was detained in August 2002 for a month on suspicion of “illegally leaking state secrets” when he published a government document on the group’s email listserve on the extent of the epidemic in Henan Province. The group was not permitted to register as a non-profit NGO and was forced to register as a for-profit business corporation. The group’s activities continue to be restricted and monitored by the police.

In 2002, he was awarded the 1st International Awards for Action on HIV/AIDS and Human Rights by Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network and Human Rights Watch, Defender’s Awards by International League for Human Rights, Fulbright New Century Scholar Award and Yale World Fellow Award.

The Network of Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CRD)

Nov. 27, 2006

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