February 17, 2011
Tian, a relentless human rights advocate.
The Chinese government has handed a one-year prison sentence to AIDS activist Tian Xi for damaging property at the hospital where he was infected with HIV.
In December, the Update named Tian one of 2010's unsung AIDS heroes for his relentless advocacy on behalf of Chinese people living with HIV. For years, he has petitioned officials to compensate him and tens of thousands of others infected with HIV through China's contaminated national blood supply.
Tian's lawyer reports that Tian was weak at his court appearance last week, as he is struggling to recover from a cold. Officials are holding him in an unheated cell at a local detention center with a half-dozen other inmates with HIV/AIDS, the lawyer said.
According to the Aizhixing Institute, China's first AIDS nonprofit, Tian's mother threw herself in front of police car after the sentencing, attempting to prevent police from taking her son away. (See image at left.)
In August, police detained Tian after he visited a hospital in the south-central province of Henan, seeking to speak with the hospital's director. The Chinese government charged him with destroying items in the office. Amnesty International reports that the director refused to address Tian's concerns, and physically rebuffed him. After, Tian pushed items off the director's desk.
Untold numbers of Chinese were infected with HIV through blood transfusions in the 1990s. While many nations experienced similar outbreaks of HIV in the blood supply early in the epidemic, China is the only one that has refused to create a compensation program.
"No official has ever been held accountable, and some have even been promoted," said Meg Davis, cofounder of the U.S.-based China AIDS Solidarity Network. "Considering that the normal sentence for this crime is three to four months, longer than [Tian] has already served in detention, it's clear that this [punishment] is retaliation for his AIDS activism."