Families of a group of HIV patients in Shahe, Hebei province, are desperate for news of their loved ones a week after the patients were detained for petitioning Premier Wen Jiabao over their plight during his tour of the city this month. More than a dozen HIV patients and their families converged on the Shahe Hotel, where Mr Wen was believed to be staying, early on April 5 in an attempt to meet him. But one of the petitioners, Li Zhanguo, said they were thrown into a police van where they were subdued by plain-clothes officers using a spray of unknown nature. They were taken away before the premier's arrival, he said. 'I could hardly open my eyes and breathe after being sprayed and when I woke up, I was behind a tall steel door, and I later found out I was inside a prison,' said Mr Li, who is HIV-positive and comes from Baita township. He is among the 11 patients and family representatives detained on April 5, but he was released on bail last Wednesday with two others. The attempt to petition Mr Wen was the latest in efforts by HIV-positive people seeking justice for their infections, as they believe they are victims of unsafe blood products and unregulated blood-harvesting programmes dating back to the 1990s. On Saturday, a Shahe police official said she had no information on whether the detainees would be charged or when their families could visit them. Beijing-based lawyer Jiang Tianyong , who provides legal assistance to the patients, said the families should have been informed about the detentions within 24 hours and it was a violation of the law to send the patients to prison, as they were not criminals.