November 15, 2010
A Chinese group focusing on rural AIDS and orphans shut down Thursday due to mounting pressure from the Beijing tax bureau, advocates said. Beijing Loving Source (BLS) was founded by jailed AIDS activist Hu Jia; its closure follows stepped-up government pressure against and harassment of other organizations dealing with controversial matters.
Earlier this year, AIDS activist Wan Yanhai fled to the United States after receiving numerous police threats. In March, the government decided to regulate overseas donations to private aid groups. Government leaders are struggling with rapidly increasing grass-roots groups, concerned they may evolve toward political activity during China's economic transition.
BLS worked with the UN and Oxfam on HIV awareness and rural patient care. Hu's wife, Zeng Jinyan, announced the group's closing in a Thursday posting on her website.
Zeng noted "profound lessons" when tax authorities in 2009 levied a 1.4 million yuan (US $206,000) fine against a legal-aid group that assisted with politically sensitive cases. Though the Beijing tax bureau does not usually target organizations as small as BLS, it is pressing for a detailed audit, Zeng said.
Zeng said she hopes volunteers continue the group's work. "Without the help of volunteers, at least more than 100 AIDS orphans could be living on the streets," Zeng wrote.
Hu is now serving a 3.5-year prison sentence on charges of sedition related to his activism.