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Human Rights in China welcomes release of Chinese AIDS activist

September 21, 2002

A prominent New York-based Chinese rights group Saturday welcomed the release of detained Chinese AIDS activist Wan Yanhai, while urging checks on the "arbitrary power" of China's police.

"Human Rights in China (HRIC) welcomes the release of public health and AIDS activist Dr. Wan Yanhai," the group said.

"Dr. Wan through his courage, persistence, and commitment over the past decade, has made an invaluable contribution to putting the human face of AIDS in China on the international map."

Wan was released by State Security police late Friday, following nearly a month of incommunicado detention.

Since disappearing on the night of August 24, the Chinese government had repeatedly refused to confirm the whereabouts of the prominent activist despite widespread international condemnation of his suspected detention.

"Dr. Wan's detention and his release reflects the arbitrary power and unfettered discretion of the Chinese State Security apparatus," the HRIC statement said.

"Dr. Wan's detention is not the first time the Chinese government has invoked the State Security or State Secrets Law to chill and suppress legitimate efforts by Chinese citizens to address the critical issues facing Chinese society, such as the current AIDS crisis."

The group urged the release of all individuals detained in China for "exercising their rights of freedom of expression and association", while also demanding that Wan and his colleagues be able to continue their work in China.

According to the official Xinhua news agency, the activist was "admonished" and released Friday after "confessing to his crimes and agreeing to cooperate with police in the investigation".

He had been suspected of leaking state secrets overseas, the agency said.

Wan's supporters had said he had most likely been arrested for posting on the Internet a confidential government report detailing a scandal over HIV-contaminated blood in Henan province.

Vast numbers of people in the central region, mainly poor villagers, contracted HIV from the mid-1980s from the activities of blood collectors using appallingly unsanitary measures.