From Beijing to Hampstead: How tale of HIV Whistleblower is rattling the Chinese State
Posted on 8 September 2019. By: Vanessa Thorpe for The Observer
Chinese security officials have been accused of targeting a whistleblower’s family and friends in a campaign to force Hampstead Theatre to abandon a play based on her case.
Dr Shuping Wang, who exposed the spread of hepatitis and HIV infection through contaminated blood and plasma in China two decades ago, has said her relatives and former colleagues in Henan province are being told they should persuade her to drop the show at the London’s Hampstead Theatre.
She said the incident had revived memories of the original whistleblowing, but was determined that the show, The King of Hell’s Palace, should go ahead. “The only thing harder than standing up to the government and their security police is not giving in to pressure from friends and relatives who are threatened with their livelihoods, all because you are speaking out,” she said. “But even after all this time, I will still not be silenced, even though I am deeply sad that this intimidation is happening yet again.”
Wang said officials had also tried to obtain contact details for her daughter, in an attempt to exert pressure on her. “I am particularly concerned for my daughter, who is very scared about being approached,” she said, adding that former colleagues in Beijing were afraid to answer her phone calls and emails since high-level officials had visited. “Their reason is that this play will embarrass and damage the Chinese government and the reputations of specific officials.”
The play, written by Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig and due to open on Friday, is a thriller inspired by the true story of Wang’s “extraordinary mission to expose a cover-up of epic proportions”. Set in Henan province in 1992 and directed by Michael Boyd, former artistic director of the Royal Shakespeare Company, it centres on the danger a young ministry of health official finds herself in when she is recruited into a new medical trade in human blood and uncovers a terrible secret.
Boyd condemned the pressure that Wang’s relatives were under but said: “We will do what Shuping wants, and she really wants this play to go on.”