Ex-official implicates two Chinese leaders in AIDS scandal

A retired senior Chinese health official called for two of the country`s most powerful leaders to take responsibility for a huge 1990s blood-selling AIDS scandal.

Updated: Dec 01, 2010, 19:03 PM IST

Beijing: A retired senior Chinese health
official on Wednesday called for two of the country`s most powerful
leaders to take responsibility for a huge 1990s blood-selling
AIDS scandal.

Chen Bingzhong, 78, who has advanced liver cancer,
wrote an open letter to Chinese President Hu Jintao saying
that some involved in the scandal in Henan province were
guilty of "gross negligence" and had still not been punished.
In the letter, published on the website of activist
group Aizhixing, the former head of the government`s Institute
of Health Education pinpoints "two senior officials" who have
since entered China`s top nine-member leadership.

Speaking to a news agencyby telephone today, World AIDS Day,
Chen pointed the finger at Vice-Premier Li Keqiang -- widely
touted to succeed Premier Wen Jiabao -- who was head of Henan
in central China from 2002 to 2004.

He also named Li Changchun, the Communist Party`s
propaganda chief, who served in the same position from 1992 to
1998.

Both are now part of the party`s politburo standing
committee, the nation`s highest and most powerful
decision-making body, along with Hu and Wen.
"They have to take responsibility. They must
apologise," Chen said.

In the 1990s, entire villages in Henan were devastated
by HIV/AIDS.

Many people were infected after repeatedly selling
their blood to collection stations that pooled it into a tub
and then injected it back into them after taking the plasma.

The blood-selling scandal was initially covered up by
local officials, some of whom were actively involved. But it
eventually came to light after fierce campaigning by
activists, including Aizhixing founder Wan Yanhai.

The government eventually revealed in 2001 that 30,000
to 50,000 people may have been infected with HIV through the
scheme.

Chen, though, said the number was closer to 100,000,
adding at least 10,000 had died.

The Chinese government has since started talking more
openly about HIV prevention and control, but the harassment of
some independent campaigners and organisations still
continues.

Wan fled to the United States this year with his
family because he said he feared for his safety. Gao Yaojie,
another AIDS activist who was based in Henan, left in 2009.

According to a state media report earlier this week,
the number of HIV/AIDS sufferers in China now stands at nearly
370,400, compared with an official health ministry figure of
319,877 last year.

PTI