BEIJING, July 7 ?Hundreds of policemen raided an AIDS-afflicted village in
central China two weeks ago, rampaging through homes, beating residents and
arresting 13 people, villagers said. The nighttime attack, which left more
than a dozen injured, was apparently in retaliation for the villagers
previous protests calling for better medical care, residents said in
telephone interviews today.
The raid was the largest such clash between officials and residents in rural
Henan Province, where AIDS is claiming growing numbers of lives and medical
care is minimal.
Like many villages in Henan, Xiongqiao, where the raid took place on June
22, is experiencing an AIDS epidemic caused by government-induced blood
trading in the 1990s. Experts estimate that there may be as many as a
million H.I.V.-positive people in Henan, nearly all of them infected when
they sold their blood under poorly protected conditions. Despite government
promises, few of the villagers have been given antiviral drugs or
About one-third of Xiongqiaos 600 or so residents are H.I.V.-positive;
about 30 have died of AIDS, three residents of the village said in separate
interviews. All feared reprisals if they gave their names.
The night of the raid, they said, officers wielding truncheons roamed the
village in groups, swinging at villagers heads and breaking television
sets, dishes and lights. "They werent like officials," one man said, "They
behaved like bandits, smashing and looting." He added that about a dozen
villagers had been injured, and that at least three were still hospitalized.
The villagers said they believed that the raid was in revenge for an earlier
assault on local officials. On June 17 as many as 100 villagers went to the
nearby Wulong Township government building to demand tax breaks and better
treatment, including medicine coupons and the building of a health center,
for which the central government had disbursed $6,000 a year ago.
When they were refused, several dozen protesters wrecked cars and assailed
officials, including a deputy township chief, a villager who attended the
"Things got a bit out hand," he said. "But what else could we do? The money
for the health clinic was issued a year ago, but wheres our clinic? Wheres
The raid in Xiongqiao is the most recent in a series of confrontations
between villagers and officials in the Shangcai district. In May the police
in the nearby village of Wenlou detained villagers who wanted to present
their grievances to visiting World Health Organization officials. Over the
past year there have been other, smaller protests in villages in Shangcai
and other Henan districts, often involving demands for medicine and relief
from fees and taxes.
Last month five Xiongqiao residents went to Henans capital, Zhengzhou, to
petition officials for the clinic and medicine. They were arrested, and four
are still in detention. One was released because his AIDS symptoms were so
severe, villagers said.
The Philadelphia-based AIDS Policy Project, which campaigns for greater
access to AIDS treatment in developing countries, issued a call today for
the release of the arrested villagers and also urged foreign companies to
stop investing in Henan because of the provinces poor treatment of
The villagers of Xiongqiao said they had not previously been involved in
violent confrontations. "Most of the time, were too tired to protest," one
of the men interviewed said, "and now were scared that this isnt the end