Li Keqiang wearing an AIDS ribbon ahead of World AIDS Day on December 1st. Image credit: SCMP.
Over a hundred HIV/AIDS patients from Henan Province took to the streets of Beijing earlier this week to demand the government provide better care and support for sufferers of the disease.
Premier-in-waiting Li Keqiang served as a senior official in Henan for over 6 years, and has recently been hailed by the Chinese media for appearing to pay more attention to the epidemic which in 2009 became the country’s leading cause of death among infectious diseases, ahead of tuberculosis and rabies.
Hundreds of thousands of people in China were infected with HIV towards the end of the last century when it was common practice for blood donation services to re-use needles and even re-inject blood after it had been mixed with that of other donors and the plasma removed. Campaigners have called upon the government to compensate victims of this scheme, or at the very least provide more assistance for those living with the disease.
AIDS activist Hu Jia is unconvinced by Li’s “show” of concern ahead of World AIDS Day on December 1st, pointing out that it was during Li’s time in Henan that the province responded to the epidemic with a crackdown on AIDS activists and victims.
“Li did not play any constructive role in anti-Aids work during his rule in Henan and he is ultimately responsible for the crackdown on Aids activists back then,” Hu said. “My first detention for Aids work actually happened in Henan.”