China AIDS activist freed after finishing one-year sentence

Aug 18, 2011, 8:24 GMT

Beijing – China has released an AIDS activist after he completed a one-year prison sentence imposed for ‘intentional destruction of property’ during a row at a hospital, the activist said on Thursday.

Tian Xi, 24, told the German Press Agency dpa by telephone that he returned to his parents’ home in the central province of Henan on Wednesday.

No special conditions were attached to Tian’s release, said his lawyer, Liang Xiaojun. ‘He is completely free,’ Liang said.

Henan’s Xincai County People’s Court convicted Tian in February despite his insistence on his innocence. His sentence ended on Wednesday because the authorities counted his time in custody from his arrest in August last year.

Tian needs daily medication after he contracted AIDS from an infected blood transfusion following an accident when he was 10 years old.

Police reportedly detained Tian after he broke cups and other items during an argument at a local hospital where he had gone to request more medicine.

Tian’s family said he was lured back from Beijing to Xincai by a false promise from the county’s Communist Party secretary to resolve his medical claims.

Many other rights activists supported Tian following his arrest, and two prominent Beijing-based activists said they travelled to Henan to meet him after his release.

Tian has campaigned for compensation for the hundreds of thousands of people infected with HIV through public blood supplies.

During the 1990s, many poor rural residents were infected with HIV through government-run or illegal blood-selling schemes in Henan, Hubei, Shaanxi and other central provinces.

Several doctors and activists who travelled to the worst-hit areas concluded that local officials had covered up the blood-selling problem and left infected people to their fate.

The health ministry has estimated that some 740,000 people are living with HIV in China, most of them undiagnosed because of the fear, ignorance and stigma attached to the virus.

Most new infections are through sexual transmission, the ministry said.