Under the warm winter sunshine, the multi-colored China roses and chrysanthemums blooming in Jinzhong Prison in the northern suburb of Beijing marked the 15th World AIDS Day on Sunday.
The four prisoners who grew them are all HIV carriers. They insisted these potted flowers go on the tables of the police officers and prison doctors, to show their thanks for the help they have received from the prison administration.
A new banner saying "caring for each other, sharing life with each other" hung alongside such traditional slogans as "reform thoroughly" on the prison notice board to mark World AIDS Day.
On Sunday the four HIV carriers received presents such as food and flowers from the prison administration.
The four were sentenced to 3-5 years imprisonment for drug trafficking and became infected with HIV by sharing syringes with other drug-takers. According to Chinese law, the four criminals are socially dangerous and are not eligible for parole.
Wang, one of the four who would give only his surname, said prison officers had never disliked or avoided him and had been concerned about his health since he was detained. So far, Wang has beaten his drug addiction.
"I am 10 kg heavier now than I was when I came to prison," said Wang, who will finish his sentence on April 1, 2003. The four HIV prisoners are held in two special cells, each equipped with a color TV set, a glass-walled toilet and a 24-hour hot shower-bath, far better than the facilities provided to healthy prisoners. Those measures were taken to prevent them from becoming ill, said Sun Xibin, deputy director of the Jinzhong Prison.
They are served with better quality food and are freed from work except for being required to study, jog, play traditional Chinese shadowboxing and grow flowers. The flower-planting mission will help nurture goodwill and courage in their hearts, says Sun.
Chinese prison law requires a combination of punishment, education and reform to rehabilitate law-breakers. Jinzhong has taken a series of steps to speed up reforming HIV-infected inmates in a humane way and help ease their fears of being ostracized by society.
The police officers are required to communicate frequently with prisoners, especially the four HIV patients, to prevent them from reverting to anti-social activities when released from prison.
Jinzhong sources said prison administrators planned to let prisoners put photos of their relatives in cells, with the aim of better reforming these people into law-abiding citizens.
(Xinhua News Agency December 1, 2002)