China AIDS forum cancelled after activist's arrest

wan yanhai (c) AFPBEIJING (AFP) - A non-government forum on AIDS and the legal rights of AIDS victims was cancelled in Beijing, days after well-known Chinese activist Wan Yanhai was taken away by police, organizers said.

The "Blood Safety, AIDS and Legal Human Rights Workshop" was cancelled after Wan was taken into custody Friday by four policemen who burst into the Beijing headquarters of the AIDS Action Project, spokeswoman Wang Lixuan told AFP.

The Sunday workshop was to be attended by about 50 people who had contracted AIDS or the HIV virus that causes AIDS from unsafe blood transfusions, often administered by local government-related medical institutions, she said.

Before being taken away, and while in the presence of Beijing police, Wan ordered the workshop, part of activities commemorating the December 1 World AIDS Day, to be cancelled.

His whereabouts were not known, Wang said. Beijing police had refused to confirm or deny Wan was in their custody, she added.

Although the majority of China's estimated 800,000 HIV carriers are believed to be linked to high risk groups such as intravenous drug users and sex workers, an increasing number have contracted the disease through tainted blood.

In the late 1990s, several villages in central China's Henan province were devastated by AIDS after locals got the disease through government-backed blood drives.

The AIDS Action Group has sought to assist such victims, despite a series of obstacles put up by the local and central governments.

Wan spent nearly a month in jail in 2002 after being accused of sending official documents abroad linked to the Henan AIDS scandal.

He was sacked from his post in Beijing's public health bureau in 1994 after being rebuked for his fight against the epidemic and for supporting equal rights for homosexuals.

China's health ministry said Wednesday 183,733 people were confirmed with HIV/AIDS at the end of October, reportedly a 27.5 percent rise from the end of last year.

source - AFP 

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