Thursday, March 11, 2010

Author with HIV refused China visa

March 6, 2010

Robert Dessaix . . . "insulted".
THE prizewinning author Robert Dessaix, who was to be part of an Australian delegation of authors and publishers to China next week, has been refused a visa because he is HIV-positive.

Dessaix, 65, had been due to leave today to travel to Shanghai for that city's International Literary Festival, where he was to be a headline speaker with Les Murray, Alexis Wright, Alice Pung and Morris Gleitzman, and international bestsellers such as Louis de Bernieres, Scott Turow and Junot Diaz. The festival is the biggest showcase of foreign writers to have been staged in China. Last night Dessaix's name was still on the festival program.

Over the next eight days, he was to have speaking engagements at universities and bookshops in Beijing and Chengdu. These included a public interview with Australia's ambassador to China, Geoff Raby. The appearances are now to be cancelled.

''It's medieval. I feel snubbed and insulted, of course, and also humiliated,'' Dessaix said. ''There had been interventions at the highest level on my behalf, but they were refused, so I see it as a snub to Australia, not just to me.''

Dessaix, who has never been to China, put in his visa application four weeks ago. The guidelines for the application stated that HIV status had no prejudicial bearing. In good faith, he declared it.

Dessaix had had no political involvement in matters concerning China, and said he had been told by Australian officials that although China did not give reasons for the visa refusal, his health status was the issue.

The Department of Foreign Affairs in Canberra would not comment on his individual case.

The Herald was unable to reach the Chinese embassy in Australia for comment.

Dessaix will instead return to his home in Hobart.