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Chinese AIDS Activist Detained

September 6, 2002

One of China's most prominent AIDS activists Wan Yanhai has been arrested for allegedly revealing state secrets, his wife said as a series of human rights groups called for his immediate release.

Wan, who founded and ran the AIDS Action Project, a private group pushing for the rights of China's AIDS sufferers, particularly farmers infected through tainted blood collections, has been missing since late last month.

"Security officials told Liang Yan, who is in charge of student volunteers working with the AIDS Action Project, that my husband has been detained," Wan's wife Su Zhaosheng told AFP from California, where she is currently studying.

"I was told he has been detained because he was accused of revealing state secrets through his research," she said.

"My first hope is that they can release him immediately, but otherwise at least arrange an immediate relative to visit him."
Ever since Wan disappeared on August 25, Su has warned her husband had probably been arrested as he normally contacted her daily.

However police and China's foreign ministry have repeatedly said they know nothing of his whereabouts.

In the weeks before his disappearance, Wan had complained of increasing official harassment, including his group being ordered to vacate its office on a university campus.

Wan's AIDS Action Project has been one of the most vocal groups in China in drawing attention to the plight of farmers who have contracted AIDS through selling their blood to government-approved collectors, thought to number in the millions.

His group's website has published names of farmers who died of AIDS after selling blood in villages in central China's Henan province, where the scandal was first revealed.

The blood dealers would use deeply unsanitary collection methods, drawing blood from unclean needles and pooling it together to extract the plasma before pumping the remainder back into donors to reassure them they would not suffer ill-effects.

Wan has also published essays on the website and helped AIDS sufferers arriving in Beijing to seek medical care and helped pay their expenses.

Su insisted that her husband's efforts had helped China rather than harmed it.

"I know my husband. He has worked with AIDS for more than 10 years and his work has always been of benefit to the country and the people," she said.

New York-based Human Rights in China today appealed for Wan's immediate release.

"Wan's crucial work on HIV/AIDS education is not only important humanitarian work, it also addresses critical public health needs in (China)," said the group's head, Xiao Qiang.

"If there is any crime committed here against the Chinese or the world, it is the government's ongoing suppression of information on this urgent health crisis."

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