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China 20 September 2002

China free the founder of an aids information web site

20 septembre 2002

Wan Yanhai was released on 20 September after confessing that he had leaked state secrets, reports the Xinhua (New China News) Agency, quoting a government spokesman.  The campaigner for Aids sufferers and freedom of information on the Internet had been missing since 24 August. He had apparently been arrested for having published an official report concerning the contaminated blood scandal in the province of Henan on the Internet . The press agency indicated that he had been "admonished", but did not specify whether he risked any punishment or whether any further legal proceedings would be taken against him.

image 215 x 49 (GIF) Wan Yanhai, founder of the Aizhi (Aids) Action Project and of the web site, active in combating discrimination against aids victims and promoting freedom of information on the Internet, went missing from Beijing on 24 August. "The disappearance of the administrator of one of the rare independent web sites on aids is very worrying. If Wan Yanhai is being held by security services because of the content of the information published on his web site, we urge you to release him immediately," says Robert Ménard, Secretary-General of Reporters Without Borders in a letter to China’s Public Security Minister, Jia Chunwang. The organisation has asked the Minister to allow Mr Yanhai to publish information about the aids epidemic in China without any restrictions.

Mr Yanhai was last seen on 24 August in a Beijing café, where he was attending the projection of a film on homosexuality. According to certain participants, he was being followed by agents of the Public Security Ministry. His wife, Su Zhaosheng, who lives is Los Angeles, has had no news of him.

His association, Aizhi Action Project, helped to publicise the scandal concerning contaminated blood in the central province of Henan, notably by publishing on its web site the names of peasants in the province who had died from aids after selling their blood. The web site, which can still be accessed, also carries horrendous reports of the situation of those who are HIV positive in China. In July, the university that housed Aizhi Action Project closed down its offices without any explanation. The association was then banned. On 17 July Mr Yanhai and 17 other people jointly signed a "Declaration of the rights of internet users", calling for freedom of expression on the Internet. Early in August Mr Yanhai reasserted his intention to continue to inform the public about aids using the Internet, even though legislation banning the dissemination of information on the subject had recently come into force. In spite of some progress recently towards greater openness, the subject of aids - particularly in Henan province - is taboo in China. Dozens of Chinese and foreign journalists have been prevented from conducting investigations into the epidemic facing the country.

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