Detained Chinese AIDS activist quietly sentenced during Olympics

On August 12, Wang Xiaoqiao, an AIDS activist from Xincai County in Henan Province, was convicted of “extortion” and sentenced to one year in prison by Xincai County Court, Chinese Human Rights Defenders learned today.

“Due to international attention to Wang’s case, the authorities had been detaining Wang for a long time without trial to avoid scrutiny. While the world focused on the Olympics, the court rushed her to jail, perhaps hoping that no one would notice this travesty!” said Renee Xia, CHRD international coordinator.

Wang was detained on suspicion of “extortion” on November 27, 2007 while petitioning the provincial government in Zhengzhou, capital of Henan Province. Wang was detained for more than six months prior to her trial on June 12, 2008. Her case was twice sent from the Procuratorate back to the Public Security Bureau (PSB) for further investigation due to insufficient evidence.

AIDS organisations in China have called for Wang’s release and her case has received wide international attention. These organisations have, for example, brought Wang’s case to the attention of a member of the European Parliament visiting Beijing in June 2008. It is believed that the court tried and quietly delivered Wang’s verdict during the Olympics in the hope of evading international condemnation.

Wang has been detained to punish her for her persistent petitioning. Wang, 34, is a laid-off factory worker in the poverty-stricken Xincai County, an area ravaged by an AIDS epidemic after an unregulated blood plasma trade in which the government played a major role led to the rapid spread of the disease in the late 1990s. Wang became a petitioner and AIDS activist after 2003 when it was discovered that her husband, Zhang, has been infected with AIDS. In 1996, Zhang, also a laid-off worker, had his right arm smashed at the paper-mill where he and his wife worked. Not only did he lose his job, he also contracted AIDS from a blood transfusion at the No.2 People’s Hospital at Xincai County. Prior to petitioning, Wang used all legal means to seek compensation for her husband, but the Court refused to accept her case.

The so-called “extortion” refers to Wang’s demand for compensation on behalf of her family after a nearby kiln polluted and damaged the family’s crops. After Wang complained to the relevant authorities, in the early half of 2007 Wang and the kiln’s owner reached a settlement and the latter paid RMB 4,800 in compensation. Months after the dispute was settled, Wang was detained.

  • CHRD urges the Chinese authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Wang.
  • CHRD believes that Wang has been incarcerated solely for the peaceful activities of petitioning. The authorities have abused Wang’s rights to freedom of expression guaranteed in Articles 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which China has signed (but not yet ratified). This right is also enshrined in Article 35 of the Chinese Constitution.

Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) is a non-political, non-governmental network of grassroots and international activists promoting human rights and empowering grassroots activism in China. CHRD’s objective is to support human rights activists in China, monitor human rights developments, and assist victims of human rights abuses. CHRD advocates approaches that are non-violent and based on rule of law. CHRD conducts research, provides information, organizes training, supports a program of small grants to human rights activists and researchers, and offers legal assistance.

Human Rights and the Beijing Olympics 2008: “What can I do?”

Support CHRD’s “Free Olympics Prisoners” Campaign 201.html

Support the campaign of Chinese citizens to end human rights abuses related to the Olympics by signing the petition “One World, One Dream and Universal Human Rights” 310.html

Urge your government to speak up publicly about China’s rights violations. Press government leaders attending the Olympics opening ceremony not to go unless 1) China frees “Olympics Prisoners” and other prisoners of conscience and 2) lift censorship and surveillance of human rights activists.

Source: Chinese Human Rights Defenders (23 August 2008)

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