Her unplanned journey from Henan province to Harlem began 17 years ago, six months after she retired as a gynecologist and professor at the Henan Chinese Medicine University hospital in Zhengzhou. She went from being a retired grandmother to China’s first and most famous AIDS activist, and became such a thorn in the side of the regime that she eventually fled to New York for safety, away from her family and everyone she knows.
Today's depressing long read: the current life and times of 'Aids Granny' Gao Yaojie, whose relentless pursuit of justice for the victims of the Henan plasma selling affair, one of the nastiest scandals to hit China in the post-Mao era, saw her eventually harrassed into exile. A similar fate befell fellow doctor and activist Wang Shuping.
It's a classic reform era scandal; the authorities in one of China's poorest provinces decide to bootstrap local incomes by setting up a 'plasma economy'. Tens of thousands of local peasants are cajoled into selling blood plasma, middlemen and well connected illegal plasma extraction operations proliferate, an AIDS epidemic follows; and following on from that comes the long brutal process of officials extracting themselves from the mess with their careers intact.
It's also a process in which current premier and new friend of David Cameron Li Keqiang is implicated: Li was governor of Henan at the time the whole affair was unwinding.