% IssueDate = "09/13/02" IssueCategory = "World" %>
Human Rights Watch
"Dr. Wan has been active in bringing to light a public health scandal that Beijing would like to sweep under the rug," said Ralf Jürgens, executive director of the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network.
"He has taken extraordinary risks to break down the conspiracy of silence around AIDS in China and protect the rights of those infected."
Dr. Wan's wife, Su Zhaosheng, is expected to receive the award on his behalf in Montreal.
On August 24, 2002, Wan was reported missing by friends and relatives. Police have since indicated to his colleagues that he has been detained for "revealing state secrets," but his exact whereabouts remain unknown.
Earlier in August, Wan had anonymously received a "neibu" (secret) AIDS research report on the blood collection scandal in Henan province prepared by government health officials that he then forwarded to an electronic mailing list.
"The report my husband distributed contained little information that had not already been published," said Su Zhaosheng, who currently resides in Los Angeles.
"His efforts to ensure people in China have access to up-to-date information about HIV/AIDS shows that he is a thoughtful scholar who cares about his country, about human rights, and about HIV prevention in China. We hope to secure his unconditional release, but we are still trying to confirm where he is being held so that his relatives in Beijing can visit him."
Dr. Wan, 38, is coordinator of the AIZHI (AIDS) Action Project, a nongovernmental organization he founded in 1994 that provides some of the only basic information on HIV/AIDS available to people in China through a widely used web site (www.aizhi.org).
As a government official he founded China's first AIDS hotline in 1992. A year later, he was fired from that post for his openness about sexual minorities and their risk of contracting HIV. With support from a variety of private and international sources, he has continued this work and has become the most visible AIDS activist in the country.
"Dr. Wan has led efforts to uncover the blood collection scandal in Henan and combat widespread social prejudice against rural villagers infected with HIV," said Joanne Csete, director of HIV/AIDS Program of Human Rights Watch.
"In the face of continued state surveillance, he and his colleagues have visited Henan many times to document the extent of the epidemic, develop recommendations for social action and government assistance, and organize educational programs."
Dr. Wan's group has also arranged to bring HIV-infected villagers to urban centres to give talks at public forums, and has hosted photo exhibits and press conferences in Beijing and other cities to reduce discrimination and show the human face of people living with HIV/AIDS. In addition, the group has coordinated efforts to assist hundreds of orphans whose parents have died of AIDS.
"The allegation that Dr. Wan has revealed state secrets by publicizing government health research is ridiculous and counterproductive," said Csete. "Any country concerned about the health of its people would make such basic health information public in a second. China has imprisoned a man who is one of its best allies in the fight against a lethal and growing epidemic."
"The Canadian government has long asserted that its policy of expanding trade with China will lead to constructive engagement on human rights issues," said Jürgens.
"This is clearly a situation where such engagement is needed, and we are urging the government to contact Chinese authorities to actively pursue the matter of Dr. Wan's detention and the appalling human rights abuses he has brought to light."
The Awards for Action on HIV/AIDS and Human Rights are sponsored by the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, Human Rights Watch, the International Harm Reduction Development Program, the Hilda Mullen Foundation and Mark Gallop.