Chinese psychiatric hospitals used to incarcerate political opponents

Chinese petitioners, troublemakers and corruption whistleblowers are being locked up in psychiatric institutions, according to the BMJ. Liu Feiyue, founder of Civil Rights and Livelihood Watch, says that he has documented more than 500 cases.

"When normal citizens are put into psychiatric hospitals the situation is very grave. They are often forced to take medicine or injections, and when they don’t cooperate they report being bound, beaten up, force fed and electrocuted," Liu says. "As social conflicts in China have intensified in recent years the number of petitioners has increased and so has the number of normal citizens being incarcerated in psychiatric hospitals."

Part of the problem is that sweeping economic changes in China have left psychiatric hospitals short of money. Incarcerating inconvenient people for a fee is one way to make ends meet. "Treatment is only available when there is someone willing to pay. If they have the money and the motive they can send someone to psychiatric hospital," says Huang Xuetao, a lawyer who handles involuntary psychiatric commitment.

In addition to hospitals run by the Ministry of Health, there are at least 23 others run by the Public Security Bureau. All of the staff, including doctors and nurses, are members of the police. Like the old Soviet psychiatric system on which it has been modelled, these institutions are used for locking away political dissidents.

The BMJ says that abuse of psychiatry has received very little attention in the world media, apart from complaints about Falun Gong members. However, the number of politically troublesome people locked away in asylums is likely to be greater than the persecuted Falun Gong sect. ~ BMJ, June 25

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