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China frees AIDS activist but not NY Times researcher

Written by: Staff

BEIJING, Mar 28 (Reuters) A Chinese AIDS activist missing for weeks was released by police today, but a New York Times researcher was still in detention 11 days after a charge against him of leaking state secrets was dropped.

AIDS activist Hu Jia returned to his home in Tongzhou on the outskirts of Beijing after being held by police and the state security apparatus at an undisclosed location for about six weeks, his wife Zeng Jinyan said by telephone.

Friends and family had tried to locate Hu but police and the state security apparatus had refused to confirm or deny if they were holding him.

''He didn't know what happened outside while he was in detention. He didn't know that the authorities did not tell his family,'' the wife said.

Hu was taken into custody ahead of the annual session of parliament and after going on a ''relay'' hunger strike to protest what he and colleagues said was the government's hiring of thugs to beat up a civil rights campaigner in the southern province of Guangdong in February.

Hu's case had attracted the attention of the lead UN agency against AIDS, UNAIDS, and rights group Amnesty International. Hu has been critical of the government's AIDS policy and its efforts to help AIDS victims and their families.

The Beijing Second Intermediate People's Court agreed this month to a decision by prosecutors to drop the charges of fraud and leaking state secrets against New York Times researcher Zhao Yan in a surprise concession ahead of President Hu Jintao's visit to the United States in April.

But Zhao remained in custody today.

Zhao's lawyer, Mo Shaoping, said he had no news about Zhao's possible release, despite multiple visits to courts and officials by Mo and Zhao's family.

''The court told me they've already issued a ruling and it's now in the procuratorate's hands, but the procuratorate has been avoiding contact with we lawyers or the family,'' the lawyer said.


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