China Police Ban Hemophilia Forum: Source

November 25, 2006 Updated: November 25, 2006

SHANGHAI—Chinese police have banned a conference involving hemophiliac activists and are believed to be holding one of the main organizers for questioning, a source close to the organizers said on Saturday.

The conference, “Blood safety, AIDS and Human Rights”, was organized by the Beijing Aizhixing Institute of Health Education and was to take place in Beijing on Saturday, the source said.

Chinese authorities are wary of organizations they cannot directly control, such as independent activist groups, and were slow to acknowledge the existence of an epidemic of AIDS, which still carries a political and social stigma in China.

Police went to the building housing the Aizhixing Institute on Friday and asked its director, Wan Yanhai, to speak to them downstairs, the source said. Wan then phoned the institute and asked staff to cancel the conference.

Wan did not return to the institute and cannot be reached on his cellphone, the source said. “The police told him to go and speak to them and he hasn't come back since—there's no way to contact him,” the source said.

A worker at the institute, who gave her surname as Wang, said “So far, we don't have any information about the whereabouts of Wan Yanhai since he left the office.”

Wang said the institute had asked a lawyer to request an official explanation and details of Wan's whereabouts.

A Beijing district police official contacted by Reuters said “We are not aware of the forum or of Wan's whereabouts … Maybe it was not approved by higher authorities at the Public Security Bureau or by the cultural affairs office.”

The government's slowness to acknowledge the existence of the AIDS epidemic contributed to its spread in China, especially in the central province of Henan, where in the 1990s millions of people sold blood to unsanitary clinics.

In April, police in the Chinese financial hub Shanghai broke up a news conference by a group of hemophiliacs who say they contracted HIV/AIDS through contaminated blood transfusions.