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Chinese AIDS activist goes missing+
[March 21, 2006]

Chinese AIDS activist goes missing+

(Japan Economic Newswire Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge)BEIJING, March 21_(Kyodo) _ A Chinese AIDS activist with a reputation for speaking out against the government has been missing for more than a month with no explanation from the authorities, his wife said Tuesday.

Hu Jia, 32, founder of the Beijing Loving Source Information Consulting Center, disappeared on Feb. 16 while under home surveillance by the State Security Bureau, his wife Zeng Jinyan said at a press conference.

Hu has not surfaced since the morning of Feb. 16, when he spoke with his mother by phone, Zeng said. He had been under house arrest in the Beijing suburb of Tongzhou off and on since Jan. 9, she said, and wasn't allowed to leave without a state security escort.

Zeng said a month of queries directed to the Public Security Bureau and a prosecutor's office has turned up nothing, and the prosecutor told her to ask public security again. She said no agency, including state security, has offered any sort of explanation as to her husband's whereabouts.

Some activists are sent to retreats during the annual National People's Congress sessions every March, but they normally reappear after the sessions close. Congress adjourned March 14 this year.

"I had assumed this (happened) because of the coming of the meetings," said Zeng, 23, a university graduate who helps Hu with his work assisting AIDS patients. "So I assumed that when they ended, he would get out."

The U.N. Human Rights Commission asked Chinese authorities about Hu on March 10, Hu's supporters say.

Hu became an environmental activist, focused on preventing desertification, in 1996. In 2001, when AIDS in China was a politically sensitive topic, he co-founded the Beijing Aizhixing Institute of Health Education and Loving Source, an AIDS support service.

Over the past three years, he has helped other "underprivileged" groups that he believed needed better treatment by the government and would speak out when he saw problems.

Hu has been in trouble before.

After the violent anti-Japan demonstrations in Beijing and other cities in April last year, police detained Hu and Xu Wanping, a former 1989 democracy agitator who served eight years in prison, in connection with the activities that caused a setback in Sino-Japanese relations.

Hu said that from June to late November last year, tax inspectors had regularly visited Loving Source to check on the approximately 200,000 yuan ($24,758) it receives in overseas donations per year. The group has been fined 6,000 yuan for tax nonpayment.

Loving Source passes on donations to AIDS orphans, offers spiritual care to people near death and advocates patients' rights, including access to medication.

State security police made property owners evict Loving Source's office of seven volunteers three times, Hu said in November, and warned AIDS patients in Henan and Hebei provinces to ignore the group's help or risk losing government health benefits.

On Feb. 9, 100 Chinese political activists launched a rolling hunger strike to draw attention to a list of sensitive political incidents, including Hu's house arrest. Hu also fasted for 24 hours on Feb. 1.

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said Tuesday he knew nothing about Hu's case.

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