Press Freedom in China

Reading the English version of China’s People’s Daily on the Internet, one gets the heartening impression that the Chinese government is tackling the growing AIDS crisis head on. Headlines like “Facing AIDS, Silence is Death” and “China Warned of 12 Million HIV Carriers in 8 Years if no Measures Taken” attest to this new openness. Indeed the Daily heralded China’s marking of World Aids day recently:

The first HIV carrier to ever address a national ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing spoke before a crowd of top health officials, experts and students to mark World AIDS Day Sunday.

“HIV/AIDS patients look forward to a life just like everyone else,” said the young man known as Xiao Wei. “We want to love and be loved.”

Xiao Wei was invited to the ceremony along with Lao Ji, who is also infected with HIV. They are both from Northwest China’s Shaanxi Province and were infected with the virus after they came into contact with tainted medical supplies when they sold blood to an illegal blood centre.

But as usual when it comes to the official media in China the truth is rather different. What the article does not mention in tandem with the “tainted medical supplies” disaster is the fact that another province, Henan, has had similar problems, in no small part due to the authorities, this being revealed by, amongst others, Wan Yanhai, an AIDS activist. On August 24, Mr Wan was arrested by the government for leaking an official report highlighting the appalling state of affairs in Henan and posting it on the Internet. He was released on 20 September after “confessing” to leaking state “secrets.” (The kick in the guts in the Daily puff piece is the quote of Xiao Wei wanting to be loved; something the State is incapable of, despite what it says.)

The case of Mr Wan is all too familiar in China, where dissidents of all kinds are quickly stood on. The latest victim of Beijing’s repression is a 22-year old Beijing University student, Liu Di, who was arrested over a month ago due to alleged “illegal” activity (code for trying to be herself) and posting essays on the internet critical of the current system and regime. (“People should stop going to political study sessions, stop watching the news on TV or reading the party mouthpiece People’s Daily and only read “reactionary” material, she suggested.”) She is, according to Reporters Without Borders, one of 32 “cyber-dissidents” now being held in China (16 have been given prison sentences). When the authorities are not busy with cracking down on whoever isn’t playing ball in Xinjiang, Tibet or Hong Kong, taking bribes, locking up Falun Gong members, defending the “image” of Chairman Mao that is being, oh dear, damaged by the Maoists in Nepal (they’re not bloodthirsty or callous enough, I can only presume), they’re jamming foreign radio stations, harassing and jailing journalists and blocking foreign internet sites. Another day in paradise.

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