USA Today on Wednesday examined legal issues surrounding HIV/AIDS in China, a country that "tightly" controls its legal system and "routinely" dismisses lawsuits that are considered "politically sensitive." In the mid-1990s, thousands of people in China's Henan province contracted HIV through unsanitary blood drives the local government approved. Since then, many people who contracted HIV from the transfusions have sought compensation from the government; however, most have encountered difficulty bringing their cases to court. According to USA Today, the Sanmenxia Intermediate People's Court in Henan would not say why it declined to accept cases related to the blood transfusions.
Wan Yanhai, a Chinese HIV/AIDS advocate, estimates that more than 100,000 people contracted HIV from the blood transfusions. According to Wan, "Even until now, the government has refused to inform people who received blood transfusions" that they might have been exposed to HIV. Lan Zhixue, lawyer and co-founder of the Institute of Democratic Society in China, said that because the hospitals involved in the transfusions "have no legal responsibility," the "victims receive no compensation." According to Li Fangping, another Chinese lawyer, the government's dismissal of such court cases is fueling a "growing distrust of the people's court system." Wan said, "It is time for the government to compensate the blood victims, and it is also time to promote fundamental political change" in China. According to USA Today, several grassroots initiatives recently were launched to call on the government to "loosen its grip and give people more freedom and legal rights." The "most daring" is a document called Charter 08, which is "snowballing" on the Internet and now has more than 7,000 signatures, USA Today reports (MacLeod, USA Today, 1/14).
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