Chinese AIDS Rights Website Shut Down

The Committee to Protect Journalists reports the closure on Tuesday of Aizhi.net the website of AIDS rights group, the Aizhixing Research Foundation.

The municipal information office informed the website’s founder, Wan Yanhai, by e-mail that it had been closed for publishing forbidden news, according to international news reports. Wan, an AIDS activist now based in Washington, published the notice on the organization’s Google profile. Wan did not immediately respond to CPJ’s e-mail request for comment.

Propaganda officials had asked the website to remove an open letter from a former senior health official, Chen Bingzhong, which was first published in late 2010, according to a statement on the Google profile page. Chen accused Chinese Communist Party propaganda chief Li Changchun and Vice Premier Li Keqiang, both former party leaders of central Henan province, of covering up the link between the government-supported sale of blood for transfusions and an epidemic of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, according to The Associated Press. Aizhi administrators refused to comply with the requests because they were made without required legal documentation, their statement says ….

Commercial blood banks that sprang up in rural areas in China in the 1980s and 1990s, paid peasants for contributing blood, extracted the plasma, and then re-infused donors from the pooled blood samples. The scale of the epidemic is still unknown, although international news reports say more than 100,000 people contracted the virus through the process. Further infections occurred through hospital transfusions. Reporting on the epidemic was censored in the local press, foreign journalists were harassed for investigating, and Wan Yanhai and other activists were detained, according to CPJ research. The blood drive in Henan was organized and encouraged by the provincial health department, according to the UK Guardian newspaper.