The Guardian: China 'sending dissidents to mental hospitals'

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John Gittings in Shanghai
Tuesday August 13, 2002

Chinese dissidents have been labelled "political maniacs" and locked up in mental hospitals simply for opposing the government, a new report claims.

[ed. note - Falun Gong practitioners do not oppose the Chinese government, but merely want to practise their peaceful spiritual movement without fear of losing their freedom or their lives.]

The crackdown on the Falun Gong [..] has led to many members who refuse to recant their beliefs being judged "mad", according to the report, published yesterday by the US-based Human Rights Watch and the Geneva Initiative on Psychiatry.

Other victims are said to include independent labour organisers, whistle-blowers and individuals who complain about official misconduct.

Those labelled in this way may be kept indefinitely in hospitals called "Ankang" centres - short for "peace and health for the mentally ill" - where some inmates say they have suffered beatings.

In the past, Beijing has rejected such charges as "groundless and unacceptable". However, the latest research, Dangerous Minds: Political Psychiatry in China Today and its Origins in the Mao Era, quotes extensively from official Chinese sources over the past decade.

A Falun Gong member was diagnosed as suffering from "mental disorder [..]" although his mind was "clear and alert", according to one case study in a clinical journal. [..]

A police encyclopaedia says the term "political mania" covers those who "shout reactionary slogans, write reactionary banners and reactionary letters, make anti-government speeches in public, and express opinions on important domestic and international affairs".

Anyone in this category who disrupts the government's work, or who exercises an "undesirable political influence", should be "taken into custody for [psychiatric] treatment".

The report was written by Robin Munro, senior research fellow at the School of Oriental and African Studies at London University.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists in Britain will move a resolution at the World Psychiatric Association congress in Japan next week urging it to investigate the alleged abuses and, if they are confirmed, to reconsider China's membership. "The report is a challenge to the WPA which had an equivocal record towards the Soviet abuses," Robin Jacoby, chairman of the Geneva Initiative, said.

The report acknowledges that many Chinese psychiatrists try to distance themselves from the abuses, which have declined since the Cultural Revolution. It also suggests that some Chinese psychiatrists have written extensively about cases of politically based diagnosis "with the goal of forcing a broader ethical debate both inside and outside of China".
Police have detained five Tibetan monks at a monastery in Lhasa, three for listening to cassettes of pro-independence songs and two for trying to raise a Tibetan flag, Tibetan sources said yesterday. The monks were taken into custody about a fortnight ago.

http://www.guardian.co.uk:80/international/story/0,3604,773569,00.html

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