Hangzhou police aim to reform, rather than release, the drug addicts Twelve HIV-positive pickpockets caught by the police last week in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, face detention in special cells rather than being freed, as usually happens. Suspects who are HIV-positive usually co-operate when they are arrested and held in police custody. 'They are used to the fact that policemen will just let them go,' said Su Junyi, from the Detoxification and Rehabilitation Centre under the Hangzhou Public Security Bureau. The 12 suspects have not been told about the possibility of long-term detention. 'Once they find out, they might become very emotionally unstable and try to recklessly injure themselves or attack the staff,' Mr Su said. In Hangzhou, more than 100 pickpockets have tested HIV positive in the past six years. Many of them contracted the virus through intravenous drug use. A man named Tan told police he deliberately contracted the virus when he was told it ensured quick release from prison. But Yang Shaogang, a Shanghai-based lawyer and Aids activist, said no law on the mainland exempts HIV-positive suspects from being detained or prosecuted. 'If these suspects are seriously ill, they can be let out for medical treatment. But this does not mean they should be criminals at large,' Mr Yang said. 'Due to a lack of information about Aids, the police are too scared to take effective measures against HIV-positive criminals. They let them go - a time bomb that threatens social stability.' The 12 suspects' clothes were burned and they were given uniforms and held at the West Lake branch of the Hangzhou Public Security Bureau. This is the first time that police in the city have officially detained suspects with HIV/Aids and considered transferring their cases to the prosecutor, according to a recent report by the Shanghai Morning Post. 'We have to treat these suspects differently to prevent policemen from being infected,' Wang Qingkun, deputy director of the West Lake branch, was quoted as saying. One police officer will be assigned to each suspect, and officers will wear double plastic gloves, special helmets and masks. The pickpockets are all drug addicts from Luzhai county in Guangxi province. They will be sent to drug rehabilitation centres before being held in criminal custody.