Chinese AIDS activist is living in West Philadelphia

    A prominent Chinese AIDS activist is now living in West Philadelphia, after fleeing his homeland with his wife and young child. Human rights activists say China is in the midst of a crackdown on non-governmental organizations.

    A prominent Chinese AIDS activist is now living in West Philadelphia, after fleeing his homeland with his wife and young child. Human rights activists say China is in the midst of a crackdown on non-governmental organizations.
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    Wan Yanhai began his public health career working on AIDS prevention for the government. He created the first AIDS hotline for gay people in Beijing, but lost his job. Then he founded an NGO that advocated for people with AIDS, including sex workers, gays and ethnic minorities. Wan says the authorities were not happy.

    “We have no political intention to harm Chinese government so I don’t know why we need to be afraid of them. But unfortunately they are afraid of us.”

    The government arrested him in 2002, but international pressure led to his release. Lately, he says he’s been getting more harassing government calls. Wan says surveillance was stepped-up before the 2008 Beijing Olympics and now security officials now have to justify their jobs.

    “Before Olympics Chinese government built up security capacities,” Wan said. “So, after the Olympics how to utilize the security capacity they already built up to control everything forever.”

    Wan is staying at the home of local AIDS activist Katie Krauss, who works with the Aids Policy Project.

    “He’s had years of that kind of pressure,” Krauss said. “And he’s really done so much. His organization has spawned so many different NGO’S and I think that’s why he’s ended up here in Philadelphia, is that he’s not just a person with one small organization, he’s helped many organizations get established to grow and spin off.”

    Krauss says Wan helped uncover an AIDS epidemic in Hunan province caused by tainted blood donations.

    Wan hopes to stay in the U.S. and teach at a university. He says after just a few days in this country his four-year-old daughter is adjusting.

    “She started to speak English yesterday, she said, Good Morning Daddy!”

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