CHINA—On Apr 26, over 50 Shanghai AIDS patients and relatives made public their open letter to Shanghai municipal authority appealing for three AIDS patients, who were infected with the disease through blood transfusion. They were charged with “Obstructing Public Duties” for having a conflict with police during their appeal. The court refused to let family members witness the trial with the excuse of protecting suspects' privacy.
In the blood transfusion several years ago, after using the unqualified Coagulation Factor VIII produced by Shanghai Institute of Biological Products, the hemophilia patients were infected with AIDS.
As of this day, Shanghai Institute of Biological Products and related Public Health authorities have never admitted their responsibility or offered any apologies, the courts even stopped accepting the lawsuit raised by patients. The media was prohibited from reporting their stories, and the only way for these patients to seek remedies was to appeal.
On September 28, 2006, thirty-one patients went to Shanghai Municipal Appealing Office where they conflicted with the police. On October 24, 2006 three patients were arrested for injuring officers and obstruction of public duties. The first trial was held on April 20, 2007 the RFA reporter contacted Ms. Qu, the lawyer who defended one of the three suspects.
Reporter: How are the three patients' health condition?
Qu: So so, they are in the Shanghai Tilanqiao Prison hospital.
Reporter: When will the verdict be announced?
Qu: It looks like it will take another month. It is not a public trial, no family members are allowed to sit in, and the court said that this is to protect privacy.
Reporter: Protect privacy from the family members?
Qu: We raised this question, but the court said family members of one suspect could overhear the private information of the other two, and thus the protection is necessary. As a matter of fact, the three patients know each other very well, they often appeal and go to the hospital together, and there is no such privacy issue. Nevertheless, no family members were allowed to sit in.
Another attorney defending the same suspect, Mr. Li Fangping from Beijing said, “It is very inhuman to forbid family members to sit in on the hearing. Especially for my client, his mother suffers breast cancer; they did not see each other for six months and was looking forward to meeting [her] at the trial and at least be able to listen to the verdict.
The reporter learned that, during the conflict on September 28, 2006, when the patients were surrounded by police, What Qu's client did was to help injecting medicine to stop the bleeding for another patient who fell down; he did not conflict with police at all. Therefore, he pleaded innocent. The other two suspects requested suspended sentence.
Li Fangping explained that when they were surrounded by many riot police, the patients panicked. The conflict was caused by improper law enforcement. There was no actual damage to any police officer. Based on these facts, they decided to take the strategy of pleading guilty but requested suspended sentences for the other two suspects.
Li Fangping said “At that time more than twenty police surrounded the patients, a plain clothes police officer took pictures of them. The infected patients were extremely sensitive about their privacy, the third suspect tried to stop the police from taking pictures. Two police pushed him down to the ground from the back causing damage to his hands. This started the conflict. More than 140 police surrounded them and gradually enclosed the surrounding; the surrounded patients panicked and tried to escape.”
“Before the appealing, the local neighborhood officials and police visited the first suspect's home and warned him not to appeal, learning that people all knew about his infection of AIDS, the first suspect was very angry about his privacy being exposed. During the conflict, he took out a syringe and stabbed a police and a security guard, but it did not cause AIDS infection to them.
The reporter tried to contact one suspect's family member, but the phone was turned off. Li commented that all the family members were pressured; they dare not accept any interviews.
On April 26, over 50 infected patients sent a public letter to Shanghai municipal authority entitled “Please treat the appealers fairly, please let us survive”.
The letter first appealed for the three suspects, and secondly disclosed that the current Anti-AIDS medicine had strong side effects, they request a change to a different medicine according to international standards. In addition, many patients needed surgery badly, but the doctors refused to do surgery on them fearing that they may become infected during the surgery. Also many patients are suffering financial difficulties and need help.