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China airline sued for rejecting HIV carriers

Two HIV-positive passengers and a friend are suing a Chinese airline for refusing to let them on board, in the country’s first such lawsuit, state media reported on Friday.

The pair planned to travel from Shenyang in the northeast to Shijiazhuang, south of Beijing, but were barred from the Spring Airlines plane after they informed staff of their status, the Global Times said.

The two, along with an HIV-negative travelling companion, were told that their tickets had been cancelled.

All three sued the budget airline, accusing it of discrimination and demanding an apology as well as compensation of 48,999 yuan (S$9,900), the paper said.

A Shenyang court accepted the case, making it the first lawsuit against an airline for discriminating against an HIV-positive person in China, it added.

“The court’s acceptance of this case signalled that HIV carriers can protect their rights through legal channels,” it quoted plaintiff Cheng Shuaishuai as saying.

The airline’s president Wang Zhenghua told a Chinese media outlet Tuesday that the company did not discriminate against HIV carriers, and blamed the incident on staff anxiety.

But he also blamed the passengers, and said the firm would not deny HIV-positive travellers transport in future, as long as they did not make themselves “overly noticeable” to avoid scaring other customers.

His comments provoked criticism online, with one user of China’s Twitter-like Sina Weibo posting: “This fundamentally trampled on human rights.” - AFP