In a Chinese region deeply scarred by HIV/AIDS, four public officials have been reprimanded and five suspects are being held by police after people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) were hired to intimidate residents who refused to vacate their homes to make way for construction projects.
Three housing officials, including the deputy head of a district housing bureau in Nanyang City, Henan Province, central China, were given disciplinary warnings over dereliction of duty, the Nanyang City government said on 27 December, Xinhua news agency reported.
Police have detained five suspects and are pursuing more.
According to Xinhua, in order to expedite the demolition project, a local construction company hired a man who in turn organised a team of PLWHAs to form a "demolition team".
The six-member team harassed residents who refused to sign demolition contracts, set off firecrackers and fired ball bearings at residents’ windows with slingshots, Xinhua reported.
The demolition team even brandished their AIDS identity cards in an attempt to intimidate residents, the report said.
There was a public outcry after a photograph of graffiti reading "AIDS demolition team" surfaced on Chinese social media.Â
The slogan was reportedly found written in a community slated for demolition under a government plan, Xinhua reported.
Some residents left out of fear, a local resident told Xinhua.
Henan province has a difficult history with HIV/AIDS.Â
It began to emerge in around 2000 that an unknown number of people – estimates vary from hundreds of thousands to over a million – were infected by participating in government-run cash-for-plasma programs in which contaminated equipment was reused.