Gao Yaojie: Bloody but Unbowed in Zhengzhou

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I recently went to Zhengzhou, capital of central Henan province to see Gao Yaojie, the irrepressible, unthinkingly courageous AIDs campaigner. I’ll be writing a longer piece later but I thought I’d post to say she is in pretty good shape and reasonable spirits, considering. She also has been free from the direct house arrest she had to endure for 20 days before her trip to America in February and there was no evidence of heavy set, short-haired types hanging around her apartment building. Her U.S. trip, during which she received an award from a group supported by Senator Hilary Clinton was resisted mightily by the Henan provincial government, which only finally relented after intervention from the country’s top leadership in Beijing. That decision, meanwhile, came days after Senator Clinton wrote a direct letter to Chinese President Hu Jintao. The local government seems to be particularly aggrieved that the retired gynecologist persists in publicizing the continued spread of AIDs in the province (as well as other parts of China) through tainted blood supplies and the illegal sales of blood, problems which led to the deaths of thousands in the 1990s and left equal numbers of of children orphaned and ostracized.

At 80, Gao is still very much mentally active (I had trouble getting a shot of her because she was so busy gesticulating to emphasize her points). But Gao says she is slowing down somewhat physically, which distresses her as there are fewer and fewer people doing this type of work, many of them having been scared away by the Henan authorities’ unrelenting hostility towards activists. But, “If I don’t go to the villages, who will?” she asks, sadly.