China: HIV/AIDS Activist Disappears, Possibly Detained


The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) forwards the following action, concerning the reported disappearance and possible detention of HIV/AIDS activist Dr. Wan Yanhai in the People's Republic of China. IGLHRC is gravely concerned for Dr. Wan's safety, and the implications of this case for the freedom of both human rights and health advocates in China.

This alert consists of:

  • a description of the case from Amnesty International;
  • a sample letter to Chinese authorities, based on one drafted by members of the US-based Health GAP Coalition.


Possible disappearance/fear for safety

COUNTRY: People's Republic of China

NAME(S): Wan Yanhai (m)

DETAILS OF SITUATION: Amnesty International is seriously concerned for the safety of Dr. Wan Yanhai, a Chinese HIV/AIDS activist, who reportedly went missing on or around 24 August 2002, and is feared to have been detained by the Chinese police.

According to reports, Dr Wan was last seen on 24 August 2002 in Beijing at a gay and lesbian film screening. All attempts by his family to contact him have failed and the Chinese authorities have so far failed to respond to requests about his whereabouts. Unconfirmed reports suggest that he was under surveillance by the police, apparently in connection with his HIV/AIDS activism and support for health issues concerning lesbians and gay men and sex workers in China.

Wan Yanhai is the founder of the Aizhi (AIDS) Action Project, a group which focuses on the promotion of HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention in China, and the advocacy of the rights of people with AIDS.

Other members of the Aizhi Action Project have reportedly been subjected to surveillance and have been questioned since the group started organizing petitions to the government for better treatment.


A former health official in Beijing, Wan Yanhai was expelled from his post in 1994 after receiving criticism from the Ministry of Health in connection with his involvement in HIV/AIDS awareness campaigns and support for lesbian and gay rights.

Since founding the Aizhi Action Project in 1994, Wan Yanhai has played a prominent role in publicising the extent of the spread of AIDS, including by highlighting the connection between blood transfusions and HIV/AIDS in Henan province. He has published on the Aizhi Action Project's website,, lists of people who apparently died in Henan province of HIV/AIDS related illnesses after selling blood between late 1980s and mid 1990s to government-sanctioned blood collectors.

In July 2002 the Aizhi Action Project was forced to move out of their office when its partner institute allegedly received orders from the authorities to stop cooperating with the group.

According to Xinhua, the state-run news agency, the government is stepping up measures to keep the number of Chinese HIV/AIDS patients below 1.5 million by 2010. However, a UN report published in June 2002 estimates that by 2010 the number of HIV infected people in China could rise to 10 million if effective measures are not taken.


IGLHRC forwards the following sample letter to Chinese authorities, based one drafted by members of the Health GAP Coalition. Please send it to:

Minister of Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of China
TANG Jiaxuan Buzhang
2 Chaoyangmen Nandajie
Beijingshi 100701
People's Republic of China
Telegram: Minister of Foreign Affairs, Beijing, China
Fax: + 86 10 6596 3374
Salutation: Your Excellency
Minister of Public Security of the People's Republic of China
JIA Chunwang Buzhang
14 Dongchanganjie
Beijingshi 100741
People's Republic of China
Telegram: Minister of Public Security, Beijing, China
Telexes: 210070 FMPRC CN
Fax: + 86 10 6524 1596
Salutation: Your Excellency
Minister of Public Health of the People's Republic of China
ZHANG Wenkang Buzhang
1 Xizhimenwai
Xicheng District
Beijingshi 100044
People's Republic of China
Telegram: Minister of Public Security, Beijing, China
Salutation: Your Excellency


The Chinese Medical Association
Fax: +86 10 6512 3754
China Society for Human Rights Studies (CSHRS)
Fax: + 86 10 82008118
People1s Government of Zhengzhou city, Henan province
Foreign Affairs Office of Zhengzhou
Fax: + 86 371 7976070



I am deeply concerned by the reported disappearance of Dr. Wan Yanhai. Dr. Wan had been under police surveillance and was last seen in Beijing on August 24. His friends and associates have not been able to contact him, and police officials have not yet responded to requests for an investigation into his disappearance.

Dr. Wan has been working to stop the AIDS epidemic that has decimated other parts of the world and currently threatens China. He is an internationally known advocate who has helped many people affected by AIDS, by providing health information through his organization's web site.

Dr. Wan was last seen on the evening of August 24 while attending a film screening in Beijing. Dr. Wan's wife, Su Zhaosheng, has filed a missing-persons report with the Beijing Public Security Bureau.

I respectfully ask you to order an immediate investigation into his whereabouts, and, if he is in custody, I request his immediate and unconditional release.

I ask you to insure that Dr. Wan Yanhai receives full access to his family, lawyers and medical treatment.

I also ask that you work to ensure that all human rights advocates in China can carry on their work unimpeded.

The world is watching this case carefully. I urgently await your response.


(Your Name)
(Your Address)