China's Henan Province AIDS awareness and prevention doctor Gao Yaojie was recently placed under house arrest by the Chinese authority. Gao had been making plans for travel to the United States to accept an award being presented to her by Vital Voices Global Partnership (www.vitalvoices.org). A member of Vital Voices Board of Directors told Radio Free Asia that Gao's arrest could only be due to a misunderstanding on the part of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
Based in Washington D.C., Vital Voices is a non-governmental organization (NGO) that helps women in developing countries to take leadership roles. Every year the organization presents leadership awards to women who make significant contributions to society. Vital Voices Annual Global Leadership Awards, “Women Changing Our World,” will take place at the John F. Kennedy Center on the evening of March 14, 2007. Gao is one of several Chinese women that Vital Voices plans to honor at the event. She was chosen for her work in identifying the AIDS epidemic in Henan Province and for her continuing outreach activities with AIDS patients.
Gao planned to apply for a visa at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing on February 4, 2007. She was placed under house arrest by the CCP on February 1. After news of Gao's arrest was publicized, Vital Voices Vice Chair and Founding Board Member, Mary Yerrick said that it was unclear why Gao had been placed under house arrest.
Yerrick said, “During the past ten plus years, Gao has been honored with numerous awards for her work with AIDs patients, including several presented by the CCP. That is why I think there must be a misunderstanding. We are currently thinking of ways to resolve this problem.” Yerrick hopes that Gao will be allowed to travel to the United States to accept her award.
Gao's situation can only be revealed from her daughter who visited her. The reporter called her daughter's home, but no one answered the phone. Hu Jia is a prominent Chinese AIDS activist who keeps in close contact with Gao's daughter. Hu said that fifty policemen had surrounded Gao's home during the past week.
“The numbers of policemen surrounding her home are now starting to decrease, but several can still be seen inside the building,” said Hu. “It would be impossible for her to leave.”
Chinese Minister of Foreign spokeman Jiang Yu responded to questions regarding the CCP's arrest of Gao. Jiang said that the CCP has always taken AIDS prevention and control work very seriously. He also stated that China is under the rule of law and that all citizens must obey the law. But he did not explain which law Gao has broken.