In China, posting a political comment, submitting a complaint about a corrupt official, or shouting slogans in the street, will quickly get you locked up in a detention centre or it might get you admitted to a psychiatric hospital, a report has claimed.
The report by Madrid-based NGO Safeguard Defenders “exposes” how Chinese police and government agents are still sending petitioners and activists to psychiatric wards for medically-unnecessary compulsory treatment, where some languish for years.
“In 2022, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is still routinely locking up political targets in psychiatric hospitals despite implementing legal changes to stop this barbaric practice more than a decade ago,” the report claimed.
“In the name of stability maintenance, the CCP is able to remove petitioners and activists entirely out of the justice system, with no hope of seeing a lawyer or going to trial, while diagnosing them with mental illness so that they are socially isolated even after release,” the report said.
“Police and government agents continue to arbitrarily send petitioners and activists, sometimes repeatedly (one woman in the study had been sent 20 times!) to psychiatric commitment, both within the Ankang system and in general medical facilities,” the report claimed.
“Doctors and hospitals are either coerced by, or collude with, the authorities by allowing this abuse to take place,” it added.
Once inside, victims may stay there for months, even years. Nine victims have been inside for more than 10 years. Others have been locked up again and again (almost a third of the 99 victims had been sent two or more times), the report said.
“Locked up, many patients were physically and mentally abused. They were subjected to painful electroconvulsive therapy, often without anesthesia; tied to their beds where they were left for hours to lie humiliated in their own waste; and beaten and isolated and contact with their family or lawyers through visits or phone calls was blocked,” the report said.
It claimed that even after release, victims suffer from serious physical and psychological trauma including dramatic weight loss, scars from being left for hours tied up in soiled clothes, and marked loss of muscle strength.
The forced medication has also left enduring mental scars including signs of dementia in even young victims, night terrors, tremors and suicidal thoughts, the report said.
Safeguard Defenders urged the international community to once again pay attention to this grave abuse of human rights and help pressure Beijing to make good on its promises it made a decade ago.
China must take immediate steps to put a stop to the political abuse of psychiatry, release all those unjustly imprisoned in psychiatric hospitals and provide them with full access to remedy in seeking compensation for their ordeal and timely medical assistance in dealing with the psychological and physical consequences of their ordeal, the report said.