By Henry Sanderson – Associated Press

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao visited the Hebei province outside Beijing recently, prompting 11 men and women infected with HIV through tainted blood transfusions to protest there.

11 men, women infected through transfusions of tainted blood had hoped to draw Chinese premier’s attention to their plight

BEIJING — Police beat, shocked and detained 11 people suffering from HIV-AIDS who were trying to protest in front of China’s premier, a Beijing-based activist said Thursday, April 10.

The Aizhixing Institute’s Wan Yanhai said the protesters, who all contracted HIV through blood transfusions, were attacked April 5 in front of the municipal government building in Shahe, a town in Hebei province outside Beijing.

Wan said the protesters were beaten with clubs, shocked with electric prods and sprayed in the face with an unknown substance that caused them to lose consciousness. He said they were taken to a hospital and later detained.

Wan said the 11 had hoped to draw the attention of Premier Wen Jiabao, who was visiting the area, thinking he could help them receive compensation from the hospital where they contracted HIV from tainted blood in the mid-1990s.

Wan said the local court has repeatedly refused to accept the group’s case against the hospital, and the local government has failed to follow through on a pledge to support them, he said.

Wang Weijun, a friend of the 11, said three women were later released on condition they drop their complaint against the government and not talk about what happened to them. The remaining six men and two women had not agreed to those conditions, Wang said.

A man who answered the phone Thursday at the Shahe police department said he had no information about the incident. He refused to give his name as is standard among Chinese police officers. The hospital had no listed telephone number.

HIV gained a foothold in China largely due to tainted blood transfusions in hospitals and unsanitary blood buying schemes. Although the government acknowledges responsibility in the transfusion cases, victims still have trouble receiving compensation.

After years of denying that AIDS was a problem, Chinese leaders have shifted gears dramatically in recent years, confronting the disease more openly and promising anonymous testing, free treatment for the poor and a ban on discrimination against people with HIV. President Hu Jintao has been shown on state television shaking hands with people living with AIDS.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 11, 2008.
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