Saturday was World Aids Day. On Friday, Premier Wen Jiabao went to Shangcai county in Henan - famous for the disastrous number of people who contracted HIV through the criminal negligence of government-organized blood buyers. The most famous of all Shangcai’s villages is Wenlou.
From Xinhua’s report:
According to the villagers, with the help of the government, great changes have taken place at the village. The village is gradually out of the shadow of AIDS. About a dozen of children in the village go to college every year.
“I believe that Wenlou will become better and better day by day,” said the premier.
Below is a translation of a post from AIDS activist Hu Jia’s blog, written the day before Premier Wen’s visit:
Premier Wen Jiabao will visit AIDS villages in Henan tomorrow
News has come from Wenlou village in Shangcai county, Henan province that Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao will visit Wenlou on November 30, 2007. This is the third time a senior official from the central government has inspected the AIDS village. It follows Vice Premier Wu Yi’s visit to Wenlou on December 12, 2003 and Premier Wen Jiabao’s Chinese New Year’s Eve visit to Wenlou on February 8, 2005. It’s the second time Premier Wen has visited this “World-class AIDS-affected model village” in Henan.
Over the last three days, a number of villagers in Wenlou have sent me e-messages, saying they are uneasy about Premier Wen’s visit. This is in marked contrast to the anticipation and excitement before Premier Wen’s last visit. Nearly three years have passed and things have got even worse there. Wenlou is just a stage for government departments to display false achievements to the outside world, and one often takes over where the other left off. During these last three years, Shangcai’s former party secretary Yang Songquan, who embezzled tens of millions of yuan, fell from power - his nickname was “Fifty Million Yang.” But the new party secretary who replaced him, Li Haizhou, has his own nickname - “Take All Gifts Li.” Local people say this gentleman is even worse than Yang Songquan. The corrupt party secretary of Wenlou village still has her job, and she’s even a favorite of the Henan provincial government. People in Wenlou have made a number of appeals to higher authorities, written joint letters, sought out journalists to expose the situation, but none of these and other methods have succeeded in bringing down this corrupt official. Liu Yuemei had no trouble being elected village party secretary after bribing 20 or more party members. She is the village chief as well as party secretary, with all the power to divert public money into her own pockets and take revenge on villagers who report her. Tomorrow, Liu Yuemei will still be wreathed in smiles at Wen Jiabao’s side, and give Premier Wen her report on Wenlou’s “excellent situation.”
Premier Wen Jiabao doesn’t know that the last time he visited, 1,200 police were dispatched to seal off the road to Wenlou from the county town of Shangcai and a large number of local cadres pretended to be villagers welcoming him. Yang Songquan personally made sure that people who were likely to meet Premier Wen would answer his questions in exactly the way the Henan government wanted, without getting a single word wrong. That show of being close to the people was a waste of time and money. As soon as Premier Wen left, the local authorities breathed a sigh of relief; the country’s premier had turned out to be easy to handle. Now, large numbers of Henan police have already been stationed in Wenlou and sealed off key areas. The local government has also put some active villagers with AIDS under house arrest, usually sending two village cadres and two security guards hired by the Shangcai county police for each “troublemaker.”
Ma Shenyi, the subject of the documentary “To live is better than to die,” has also given his opinion on Premier Wen’s visit. Yes, he’s been through all the visits by high officials. Each time a high official came to inspect the village, people with AIDS in Wenlou couldn’t go to the clinic because the government wants to present the “actors” it has arranged to tell the high officials of their deep debt of gratitude to the party and the government. The “actors” can give a perfect and emotional rendition of how the people’s AIDS has been brought under control by the government’s effective work. Local officials make a good display of their achievements so they can gain higher positions in the future. Ma Shenyi acts as a true voice of the ordinary people. In the end, the premier’s visit did not make anything better for them and actually encouraged the arrogance of corrupt and ruthless officials in the Henan local government. Premier Wen, why you do travel so far, when what you seek is so near at hand? In the last two weeks, many people with HIV from many places have come to Beijing. All they wanted was to see officials at the Health Ministry to appeal for medicine to prolong their lives and express their desire for just and legal compensation. The result was that the Health Ministry twice used trickery to hand these invalids over to personnel sent from Henan to seize petitioners. Those people with HIV/AIDS are so desperate. If you spoke with them in Beijing, that would mean a lot. One of these sick people is Sun Ailing who is illegally detained at the Henan appeals reception center. She is locked in a draughty room made of iron sheeting and it has already given her a fever and vomiting. Senior officials have said she’ll she’ll be locked up until after December 1 to prevent disturbances. So if you hurry back to Beijing, you can still go to that black prison set up by Henan province at Beijing South station and talk face to face with AIDS patient Sun Ailing. As the premier, you should know that as long as you are accompanied by local officials, you will see nothing, or if you do see anything it will be totally false. Here in our country, you cannot openly investigate a government department. The only way to discover the real situation is to go there completely unannounced. That would be a hundred times more effective than repeatedly going to Wenlou. It would achieve much better results with less effort.
Premier Wen, tomorrow you will see a “good show.”
Thursday, November 29
The 195th day of being illegally monitored and controlled in Bobo Freedom City by the National Security Squad
253 days until the opening of the Olympics
An earlier criticism of Wenlou by Dr Gao Yaojie:
“I have not been to Wenlou village for half a year. If you didn’t mention it, I would not want to bring it up. You go and tell your friends and readers not to donate money or material to Wenlou village. This is just a PR project to deceive the public. They even dare to deceive Premier Wen Jiabao. It does not matter how much you donate. This is a ‘black hole’ and an inscrutablee trap. There are quite a few more ‘black holes’ in Henan like this one.”
From a Caijing report on Shangcai’s former party secretary:
Investigators have confirmed that Yang Songquan was involved in the embezzlement of RMB 10 million, a large portion of the funds earmarked for HIV/AIDS prevention work. Investigators state that the majority of the problem occurred during Yang’s five year term in Shangcai County, and is related to the buying and selling of government offices, dereliction of duty, and malfeasance.
After the HIV/AIDS cases were revealed in Wenlou Village in Shangcai County, higher authorities earmarked RMB 10 million for a new hospital to be built in the county, in order to help with the treatment of HIV/AIDS patients. The original hospital director was stripped of his position when the hospital construction was completed in the first half of 2001, however, and Yang Songquan issued construction contracts to his relatives and appointed Zhai Liuguo as the new hospital director. According to an internal hospital report, by 2004 RMB 24 million had been spent on the hospital construction, almost three times the original amount budgeted. A report from the county Procuratorate stated that an official appraisal of the costs revealed that only RMB 14.82 million of the RMB 19 million was in fact spent on construction.
The greed of officials was rekindled after a special national fund was set up to cover the medical costs of HIV/AIDS patients in Shangcai County. During the period when Zhai Liuguo was director of the county hospital, the Shangcai County People’s Hospital purchased medicine exclusively from a single supplier from Haozhou, Anhui Province. The medicine purchased from the Shangcai County People’s Hospital alone accounted for 18% of the supplier’s profits. A senior physician at the Shangcai County People’s Hospital told Caijing that, “The monies budgeted by the national government are fixed, so they inflated the prices of medicine, making off with the difference. As a result the amount of free medicine provided by the state was a pitiful amount.” The receipt of a local AIDS patient showed that the price of Chinese thorowax (type of medicine) had been inflated from its normal price of RMB 25 to RMB 160.
The documentary “To live is better than to die” referred to by Hu Jia has been posted on Youtube.