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    Reporters Without Borders said in it’s 2005 special report titled “Xinhua: the world’s biggest propaganda agency”, that “Xinhua remains the voice of the sole party”, “particularly during the SARS epidemic, Xinhua has for last few months been putting out news reports embarrassing to the government, but they are designed to fool the international community, since they are not published in Chinese.”
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China Covers Up Detention of 80 Years Old AIDS Activists

Posted by Author on February 18, 2007

New York Times, Feb. 15, 2007-

BEIJING, Feb. 15- The photograph and article in Tuesday’s Henan Daily could have been headlined “Happy Holidays.” Three highranking Henan Province officials, beaming and clapping as if presenting a lottery check, were making an early Lunar New Year visit to the apartment of a renowned AIDS doctor, Gao Yaojie.

They gave her flowers. Dr. Gao, 80, squinted toward the camera, surely understanding that pictures can lie. She was under house arrest to prevent her from getting a visa to accept an honor in Washington. Her detention attracted international attention, and the photo op was a sham, apparently intended to say, “Look, she’s fine and free as a bird.”

On Thursday, Dr. Gao said in a telephone interview, a handful of police officers remained stationed outside her apartment building in the central Chinese city of Zhengzhou.

“I just can’t simply swallow it all,” she said. “I want to know two things. First, who has made the decision? I am an 80-year-old lady, and what crimes have I committed to deserve this? Second, they must find out who has been slandering my name on the Internet.”

Perhaps no issue is more emblematic of a changing China than AIDS. In less than a decade, China has gone from trying to hide its AIDS epidemic to confronting it openly. International groups like the Clinton Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have been welcomed. The Chinese government has initiated medical research, a free drug program and a nationwide public awareness campaign.

But for a Communist Party intolerant of public dissent, embracing grass-roots AIDS activists is a different matter. They often complain loudest about inadequate care and official corruption. And few people have complained louder, or with more influence, than Dr. Gao, who gained fame for helping expose the tainted blood-selling operations that spread H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS, in central China in the 1990s.

Dr. Gao was detained on Feb. 1 as she was leaving for Beijing to pick up a United States travel visa so she could attend a banquet to be held in her honor in March by Vital Voices Global Partnership, a nonprofit group whose honorary chairwomen are Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Democrat of New York, and Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, Republican of Texas.

International organizations and the United States Embassy in Beijing soon inquired about her status. Nicholas Bequelin of Human Rights Watch saw the Henan Daily article online and assumed that it meant the pressure had worked.

“I almost fell for the ploy,” said Mr. Bequelin, who later learned that Dr. Gao was still under house arrest. “Now it appears it was a very cynical move to try to assuage international concern. They had no intention to release control of Gao Yaojie.”

Officials in Henan are famously hostile to AIDS workers. But Mr. Bequelin said Dr. Gao’s case was particularly alarming because it suggested that officials in Beijing were complicit.

He said the Henan Daily article had been posted on a Web site administered by People’s Daily, the Chinese Communist Party’s most authoritative outlet. He noted that Dr. Gao’s detention had come only three months after another high-profile AIDS activist, Wan Yanhai, was detained and blocked from holding a conference in Beijing for AIDS advocates and people infected with H.I.V.

“It calls into doubt their commitment to let the grass-roots groups and H.I.V. activists carry out their work unhindered,” said Mr. Bequelin, who is the Hong Kong-based China researcher for Human Rights Watch. “It really, clearly shows that Beijing has endorsed this restriction on Gao. They are probably worried about her going there and talking to Hillary Clinton and other people.”

International pressure seemed to have weighed on the Henan officials who had visited Dr. Gao since her detention. She said one official visited three times a day, urging her to write a letter blaming poor health as a reason for not attending the Washington ceremony. Dr. Gao said she finally relented Wednesday.

“After negotiation, we agreed that I will just say I am preoccupied and won’t be able to leave for the award,” she said. “The letter I wrote only had two lines.”

Dr. Gao said she had written it to relieve political pressure on the local health department and her family.

She was also upset with entries on a blog she recently started in which she posts AIDS cases to give them public attention. “Various posts accused me of lying and making these cases up,” she said. “Personal insults were posted. These posts were then rebutted by victims. My blog then became a battlefield.”

During the Maoist era, dissidents who spoke out against the government were brutalized or even killed. That era is long past, though rough treatment can still occur. Dissidents are now sometimes jailed on dubious charges. The authorities often tap phones and otherwise monitor people deemed troublemakers……

( more details from New York Times)

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