China AIDS chief knows nothing of missing activist
BEIJING, March 22 (Reuters) – China’s top AIDS official said on Wednesday that he had no idea where a missing Chinese activist was, but said the government had a very good relationship with private groups involved in fighting the disease.
Hu Jia, 32, went missing after going on a hunger strike with several others to protest what they said was the government’s hiring of thugs to beat up a civil rights campaigner in the southern province of Guangdong in February.
Hu has also been critical of the government’s AIDS policy and its efforts to help AIDS victims and their families.
His wife and friends have been trying to locate him since he vanished over a month ago, but police and state security have refused to confirm of deny if they are holding him. "There are 1.3 billion people in China, and you ask me where one person is? How am I supposed to know?" Vice Health Minister Wang Longde, who is also China’s top AIDS official, told reporters on the sidelines of a World Health Organisation meeting.
"We have very good cooperation with private groups in the fight against AIDS. We believe that in this fight you cannot just rely on the government," the vice minister said, before outlining a series of official measures taken to battle the disease.
He declined to answer any more questions on Hu.
Hu’s case has attracted the attention of the lead U.N. agency against AIDS, UNAIDS, and rights group Amnesty International.
"We are very much aware of this person," Henk Bekedam, the WHO’s chief representative in China, told reporters. "We have spoken to the government and are following it up. We have not received any specific details about his whereabouts."
China recorded its first outbreak of AIDS in 1989. During the 1990s, many people — notably in the central province of Henan — contracted the virus through contaminated blood transfusions.
Last year, there were about 25,000 deaths from AIDS across China. In January, Beijing lowered by about 30 percent its estimate of the number of people living with HIV/AIDS, yet warned against complacency, saying that the figure was still rising with people unaware of the danger.
About 30 people came out to demand the release of Hu Jia and other human rights defenders at our action at the Chinese Consulate on Wednesday. Activists from New York, Philadelphia, and Long Island protested and attempted to deliver a letter to President Hu. Participants included AIDS activists, China scholars, gay rights activists, and medical students.
Here’s a roundup of the press we got for the NY action:www.aidspolicyproject.org)
(for photos of this action and our sister actions in Paris and DC, go to
Chinese-language newspapers: (later I will post them both in Chinese and English)
1. Ming Pao gave us a huge picture (1/4 page, above the fold) and an article
2. Singtao picture and article
3. World Journal picture and article
1. WBAI News good 3.5min segment, actually aired today 3/24 instead of day of action due to scheduling issues, will rebroadcast at 11pm tonight
1. MTV News interviewed many of us, stayed ’til the end, supposed to give me a tape
2. RAI (Italian TV) interviewed many of us
7. Housing Works
As much as we think our actions in NY, DC, and Paris went well, we all know there’s a lot more to be done. We’re thinking of Hu Jia and others who have tirelessly fought for human rights. Their courage is inspiring to us all.
Let’s discuss what our next steps are.