HDNet World Report: Is China Locking Up Its Critics in Mental Institutions?
"HDNet World Report," HDNet's award-winning weekly news program, will investigate claims that the Chinese government is declaring whistleblowers and dissidents as insane, locking them up in mental institutions with little or no rights or redress.
In China, the people come to the capital of Beijing to seek redress from the central Chinese government for various wrongs, like local corruption, or mistreatment by police. It is the traditional way for the Chinese to register complains against their local government.
But now, many petitioners are being arrested and put in police-run mental institutions alongside violent criminals.
Whistleblowers are also targeted. Dr. Tang Zhixiong helped expose abuses in the hospital where he worked. Patients were being subjected to medical experiments, given unnecessary procedures - even heart transplants - without their knowledge. When he spoke out on the patients' behalf, he was arrested and threatened with indefinite detention as a mental patient.
Perhaps the most famous case of this abuse is political dissident Wang Wanxing who was institutionalized off-and-on over a thirteen year period and treated, against his will, for mental illness which he did not have.
While in the hospital he was given chlorpromazine, a tranquilizer and anti-psychotic medication. Sometimes he was forced to watch doctors administer electric shocks to patients using electrified needles.
"The patients would cry out loud," Wang says. "The painful screaming breaks your heart, upsets you, you can't take it."
Human rights expert Robin Munro sees this type of action becoming increasingly more common in China.
"The last ten years or more, the overwhelming majority of cases that are coming to our attention. . .involve ordinary citizens," said Munro. "People like petitioners who are campaigning for redress of some violation of their rights by local officials - confiscation of their land, their house - without compensation. And also whistleblowers, men and women in factories, in workplaces who are trying to expose corruption."
However, even under the substantial risk of this type of imprisonment, average Chinese continue to use the petitioning system to resolve complaints. "I have been to Beijing 133 times. I have no other way," said Qin Xinan who began petitioning about corruption in the factory he worked in, and now is fighting against the detention of petitioners in mental institutions. "My family is destroyed. I wander the streets of Beijing. I am a 60-year-old man begging for food and asking the government for justice, to right a wrong."
"HDNet World Report - Insane: The Price of Speaking Out in China" premieres on HDNet, Tuesday, July 21 at 9:00 p.m. ET with a re-air at midnight ET to accommodate West Coast Prime Time.