A member of a central China “AIDS demolition team” said he regretted being used to intimidate residents into vacating their homes.
Police in Nanyang, a city in Henan Province, are looking into allegations that the team, whose members claimed to be people living with HIV/AIDS, had threatened to infect residents who refused to leave homes scheduled for demolition under a government plan.
Nanyang officials confirmed the existence of the team, but said it had not been established by the local government.
Police have detained several suspects, including Cui Honglu, 48, who told Xinhua news agency from his cell in Nanyang how he had been recruited.
After he was diagnosed with AIDS in 2008, Cui said he had struggled to find secure employment, and had to survive on part-time work and government allowances.
Cui said a man called Liu Huzi had approached him and others like him with the demolition team “opportunity.”
Liu promised the pay would “support our medical expenses,” Cui said, adding that he had worked for Liu previously and that Liu owed him wages.
He said six people joined the team.
Cui said their first “job” was on December 7, and that most of the time they were just hired muscle to stand behind company employees while they spoke to residents.
The demolition team lived in a city hotel for 10 days, leaving for the community every morning at 8am and returning at 5pm.
Residents said the gang had been active since early December. One member is said to have brandished his HIV/AIDS diagnosis documentation and the gang as a whole had threatened to infect residents who did not leave.
Some left out of fear, one resident said.
After the case was made public, Cui turned himself in.
“I’ve never used my illness to blackmail or threaten anyone before, and I deeply regret allowing myself to be used in this way.”
An official with the Nanyang government said one of the companies involved in its demolition scheme had been shut down and it would be the subject of an investigation.
When a photograph of red graffiti, allegedly taken in a community slated for demolition and reading “AIDS demolition team,” was posted online it caused a public outcry and quickly went viral.