Activist released after year in prison

PUBLISHED : Friday, 19 August, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 19 August, 2011, 12:00am


An Aids activist was freed yesterday after serving a one-year jail term for 'intentionally damaging property'.

Tian Xi, a 24-year-old rights advocate for Aids patients, said he arrived home around 3am yesterday morning after being released by police in Xincai county, Henan province.

When asked about his health, Tian said: 'I've no idea about that because I haven't had any body checks since being taken into custody.'

Tian (pictured) discovered in 2004, at the age of 17, that he had contracted HIV during a blood transfusion at the No 1 People's Hospital in Xincai when he was nine years old.

Speaking by phone yesterday on a bus headed to Beijing for medical checks, Tian said he was travelling with his mother and his lawyer, Liang Xiaojun .

Liang said that there were no special conditions associated with Tian's release, such as being barred from talking to the media, adding: 'He looks in good form today.'

Tian, who was jailed in August 2010, said he wasn't given any medicine for HIV or for hepatitis A or C, until about a month later, on September 22, when his story was made public. 'What I wanted was to undergo medical treatment in a stable way in the first place,' he said.

Tian said he was petitioning authorities in Beijing on July 23 last year when he was persuaded to return to Xincai by the county's Communist Party boss, Jia Guoyin. Tian said Jia promised him that the issues of compensation for his disease, which has dogged him and his family for years, would be resolved.

'But he kept hiding from me whenever I went to see him,' Tian said, adding that he grew enraged after repeatedly being denied compensation from the hospital that infected him with HIV. 'I admit I damaged some things, including a lock worth around 200 yuan (HK$244) and an eyehole, worth about 30 yuan, on the door of an office in the hospital on August 4 and August 10, respectively,' he said.

But Tian said the local prosecutors wrongly gave the dates of some of the five times he caused damage at the hospital - an attempt, he believes, to make the action look premeditated instead of being an emotional response to a heated argument.

He said he was in Wuhan in Hubei province for three days before he returned to Xincai on August 15, but they claimed he damaged the Xincai hospital on August 14.

He insisted that he could produce tangible evidence and introduce a witness to prove that he was in Wuhan for the whole day on August 14.

Tian was detained and locked up before being convicted of 'intentionally damaging property'. He was sentenced on February 11.

Rights lawyer Jiang Tianyong said: 'He should have the right to seek compensation from those who caused him his condition today. Otherwise our laws are just empty promises if they are incapable of protecting an individual's rights.'

Additional reporting by Ng Tze-wei