China's Orphans Feel the Brunt of Local HIV Shame: Continuing Desire to Cover Up HIV/AIDS and Party Policy against Independent Organizations Thwarts Activist's Unofficial School for AIDS Orphans

September 20, 2004

Reporter Philip Pan writes that activists organizing assistance for HIV victims in Henan Province face many obstacles. Li Dan gave up a career in astronomy to try to help the victims of HIV/AIDS in Henan. He decided to focus on children whose parents had died of the disease, and set up an orphanage and school in Shangqiu, finding volunteers to staff it, and raising funds from donors in Shanghai and elsewhere.

Unfortunately, he was not able to get his school approved by the local bureau of civil affairs unless he turned the money over to them and had the city run the school. Li's decision to go ahead with the school without approval led to determined efforts by local leaders to close it down, in part because they felt that such a school harmed the city's reputation.