Detained AIDS Activist Quietly Sentenced After Long Delay

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(Chinese Human Rights Defenders, August 23, 2008) – On August 12, Wang Xiaoqiao (王小巧), an AIDS activist from Xincai County in Henan Province, was convicted of “extortion” and sentenced to one year in prison by Xincai County Court, Chinese Human Rights Defenders learned today.

“Due to international attention to Wang’s case, the authorities had been detaining Wang for a long time without trial to avoid scrutiny. Now, as the world focuses on the Olympics, the court rushed her to jail, perhaps hoping that no one would notice this travesty!” said Renee Xia, CHRD international coordinator.

Wang, currently held at Xincai County Detention Center, has filed an appeal to the Zhumadian Intermediate People’s Court. Wang’s lawyers are under pressure to keep quiet about the case.

Wang was detained on suspicion of “extortion” on November 27, 2007 while petitioning the provincial government in Zhengzhou, capital of Henan Province. Wang was detained for more than half a year prior to her trial on June 12, 2008. Her case was twice sent from the Procuratorate back to the Public Security Bureau (PSB) for further investigation due to insufficient evidence. AIDS organizations in China have called for Wang’s release and her case has received wide international attention. These organizations have, for example, brought Wang’s case to the attention of a member of the European Parliament visiting Beijing in June 2008. It is believed that the court tried and quietly delivered Wang’s verdict during the Olympics in the hope of evading international condemnation.

Wang has been detained to punish her for her persistent petitioning. Wang, 34, is a laid-off factory worker in the poverty-stricken Xincai County, an area ravaged by an AIDS epidemic after an unregulated blood plasma trade in which the government played a major role led to the rapid spread of the disease in the late 1990s. Wang became a petitioner and AIDS activist after 2003 when it was discovered that her husband, Zhang, has been infected with AIDS. In 1996, Zhang, also a laid-off worker, had his right arm smashed at the paper-mill where he and his wife worked. Not only did he lose his job, he also contracted AIDS from a blood transfusion at the No.2 People’s Hospital at Xincai County. Prior to petitioning, Wang used all legal means to seek compensation for her husband, but the Court refused to accept her case.

The so-called “extortion” refers to Wang’s demand for compensation on behalf of her family after a nearby kiln polluted and damaged the family’s crops. After Wang complained to the relevant authorities, in the early half of 2007 Wang and the kiln’s owner reached a settlement and the latter paid RMB 4,800 in compensation. Months after the dispute was settled, Wang was detained.

CHRD urges the Chinese authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Wang.

CHRD believes that Wang has been incarcerated solely for the peaceful activities of petitioning. The authorities have abused Wang’s rights to freedom of expression guaranteed in Articles 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which China has signed (but not yet ratified). This right is also enshrined in Article 35 of the Chinese Constitution.

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