Chinese Health Official Arrested for Leaking AIDS Secrets

A prominent health official in China's AIDS-stricken Henan province has been arrested for allegedly leaking secret documents related to the infection of tens of thousands of villagers through blood transfusions, an AIDS activist said Tuesday. Ma Shiwen, deputy director of the Henan Centers for Disease Control, was arrested for providing documents on the Henan epidemic to the nongovernmental AIDS activist organization Aizhi Action Group, said the group's director Wan Yanhai.

"According to health officials in Henan, Ma Shiwen was arrested in recent days and is being charged with leaking state secrets," reported Wan, who is in the United States as a visiting scholar. "It's possible that the secrets leaked concerned official documents that were anonymously sent to [AAG] on August 24 last year and which revealed the extent of the AIDS outbreak in Henan," he continued.

Wan was also charged with leaking state secrets days after he received the documents and posted them on AAG's Web site. Wan was released a month later following an international outcry and after police confirmed that the documents were anonymously sent to the group.

"As far as I know, Ma Shiwen has not been formally sacked, he is still deputy director of the section, he has just disappeared," said a colleague at the Henan CDC, who refused to identify himself. Other officials at Henan's health bureau refused to comment when contacted.

In August 2002, the government announced that about 1 million Chinese were HIV-positive with a significant percentage in Henan, and warned the figure could increase tenfold before the end of the decade. China's new openness about the Henan epidemic has come as growing numbers of those affected have become increasingly vocal about the government's role in the epidemic and dissatisfied over insufficient services and medications in rural areas.