Police in China's capital city, Beijing, detained dozens of AIDS activists ahead of World AIDS Day, which is held annually on Dec. 1. Groups of AIDS activists staged protests outside of government buildings in the days leading up to Sunday’s AIDS Day.
According to a report by Radio Free Asia, protesters made their way from China’s Civil Affairs Ministry to Wangfujing, a busy shopping district in Beijing, to air their grievances for being marginalized by society, when police descended and arrested around 30 people.
Many of about 200 people participating in the demonstration were in the late stages of AIDS, and were using the runup to World AIDS Day as a platform to call for better treatment of those suffering from the disease. They sang and chanted in protest of not only the widespread stigma in China against those diagnosed with AIDS, but they also called for improved health care and subsidies that have been promised by the government. “We were in Wangfujing shouting about our misfortunes, and how we need someone to care for us, and everyone was very moved by our words,” one protester who identified himself only as Chen said. “We called on [bystanders] not to discriminate against us.”
“Then, four or five police cars came with a big bus, and a lot of police surrounded us, and dragged some of us away,” she recalled. Authorities later released several of the protesters, who were either elderly or among the more severely infirm patients.
Though the protest was in support of AIDS awareness in general, one of the top goals for the participants was to elicit a response from the Civil Affairs Ministry in hopes of getting the medical care and social subsidies that many victims were entitled to after a tainted-blood transfusion and blood-selling scheme rocked rural areas. Patients who were affected by such schemes have unsuccessfully sued local authorities after receiving HIV-tainted blood supplies from local hospitals.
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According to an activist identified only by the last name Huang, the civil affairs bureau has yet to respond to their requests, despite being told by police who were arresting them that complaints would be resolved.
According to the report, many of the AIDS patients traveled from rural and often poverty-stricken provinces to Beijing for the protest. Many of them hailed from the provinces of Henan, Hebei and Shandong, where many were infected during an epidemic of unsafe blood transfusions. In particular, protesters brought up “Document No. 26,” which lists the government benefits that many kinds of AIDS patients are entitled to. The document requires local governments to extend assistance to children infected with HIV and to AIDS orphans whose parents had already died of the disease. In addition, the document also stipulates that local governments are required to pay a basic living allowance of 600 yuan (roughly $100) a month to AIDS patients in their area.
Many of the petitioners claim that they are receiving only a fraction of the stipend, getting roughly 200 yuan a month (about $30), while others don’t receive it at all.