Chen Guangcheng

'Compensation' for Aids activist

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 28 August, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 28 August, 2007, 12:00am

Mainland Aids activist Gao Yaojie visited Hong Kong for the first time yesterday before heading to Manila to watch Chung To, the head and founder of the Chi Heng Foundation of Hong Kong, receive what is often described as Asia's Nobel Prize.

Dr Gao, 80, who nominated Mr To for the Ramon Magsaysay Award, will attend the prize-giving ceremony in Manila on Friday night in her second trip outside the mainland.

It will be a poignant moment for Dr Gao, who received the award in 2003 but was banned from leaving the mainland to collect it.

'When she nominated me and I got it, I wanted to bring her, not as support for me but as compensation to her,' Mr To said yesterday. 'She has told me that to her it's like going to receive the award herself, just with four years' delay.'

His foundation helps children who have lost one or both parents to Aids with schooling and university, nutrition and medicine.

Dr Gao said she had nominated Mr To for two reasons.

'Chung To's work has never been recognised by the Chinese government and up to now he has helped about 4,000 orphans,' she said. 'Some people just help one orphan and become a famous figure. Since Chung To is now becoming famous, maybe he can move the planet.

'Last time I couldn't make the trip to Manila because the government didn't issue me with a passport,' she said, adding that she had few plans for her trip.

But Dr Gao said she had brought many books 'about the true situation of Aids in China, so that other people can know more about it'.

Chen Guangcheng , 35, a blind activist, has also been awarded the prize but is in prison on the mainland. His wife Yuan Weijing has been banned from attending the ceremony but Dr Gao declined to comment on Chen yesterday, saying: 'I know little about him. Mr Chen works in the field of birth control, that's not Aids prevention.'

Mr To and Dr Gao first met on January 23, 2002, at her house in Henan province . 'I was literally in her apartment for 20 seconds,' he said, before she rushed him off to a neighbour's house in fear of surveillance.

'I don't think the Aids situation is improving,' Dr Gao said. 'Besides this problem, sexually transmitted disease and tuberculosis are becoming more serious.

'The problems of sex workers have existed for thousands of years, but they have now become more serious ... women are being infected by husbands who have slept with sex workers.'

Dr Gao visited Washington in March to receive a human rights award after 20 days of house arrest. Henan authorities tried to prevent her leaving but finally relented after an international outcry and intervention by top mainland leaders.