July 28, 2003
The villagers were among approximately 13 people taken into custody during the controversial raid, in which some 500 police stormed the Xiongqiao village, beating people and destroying property after HIV-infected farmers repeatedly demanded government assistance.
It is unclear whether those still held have been charged. In previous interviews, police said the villagers would face charges of robbery and attacking government offices. "The government can't pin anything on them. All they did was appeal for government help," said a man in the village who declined to give his name. The remaining people are believed to be held because police consider them organizers.
According to family members of the detained, police have not granted any visitation access. "If they would just let us see them, we wouldn't be so worried," said a woman, whose 30-year-old husband is HIV-positive. The women said several of the arrested have HIV/AIDS.
As one of the harshest actions taken against the many farmers in China who were infected with HIV from selling blood, the raid has drawn criticism from global AIDS and human rights groups. The Chinese government maintains the raid was in response to damage to local government offices, which occurred during protests on June 11 and 12. The government said the farmers were protesting the detainment of a couple police said were trying to cheat the authorities to get government subsidies for HIV/AIDS sufferers. However, the farmers insist they were demanding that local authorities build a desperately needed clinic in their village.