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BMJ. Apr 7, 2001; 322(7290): 817.
PMCID: PMC1173278

World Psychiatric Association asked to take up case of Chinese dissidents

The American Psychiatric Association has urged the World Psychiatric Association to protest to the Chinese government about the incarceration of political dissidents and members of the Falun Gong movement in mental hospitals.

It has asked the association to "move with alacrity as it did at American, British and Australian insistence when psychiatry was used in the intimidation and torture of Soviet dissidents."

There is growing evidence of widespread abuse of psychiatry in the Peoples Republic of China. Two new reports describe forcible incarceration of political dissidents and Falun Gong members in mental hospitals, where they undergo the forced administration of psychotropic drugs, electroshock treatment, inadequate diet, and brutal beatings. Falun Gong members are told, "No transformation, no release."

In July 1999 the Beijing government banned the Falun Gong movement, which draws on Buddhism, Taoism, and the traditional Chinese doctrine of qigong (respiratory exercises).

In the first of the two reports, Robin Munro, a senior research fellow at the Centre for Chinese Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies of the University of London, said: "The Chinese government is waging a campaign to discredit and eliminate the Falun Gong spiritualist movement, interring obstinate members in mental asylums."

He has published his findings in a 130 page study ("Judicial psychiatry in China and its political abuses") in the Columbia Journal of Asian Law .

Mr Munro stated: "The Ministry of Public Security in China runs a network of special hospitals to house the criminally insane and in which political opponents are incarcerated, and now the members of the Falun Gong movement are being treated the same way." He added that this system was copied from the former Soviet Union.

A special 100 page report on Chinese psychiatric abuse was released in March from the Falun Dafa Information Center in New York (http://www.faluninfo.netwww.faluninfo.net). It named 123 Falun Gong practitioners sent to mental hospitals up to 8 January 2001.

According to the Hong Kong based Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy, however, the number of those detained is even higher. It said that 600 Falun Gong members have been detained in mental hospitals, of whom at least 50 have died in custody.

An editorial on 25 March in the New York Times strongly criticised Beijing, which "imprisons nonconformists as mentally ill," and called for forceful condemnation from foreign governments, including the United States. Bush administration officials, according to a recent Associated Press article, said that they would condemn China's record at an annual United Nations forum in Geneva.

Dr Martin Deahl, chairman of the ethics committee of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, warned, however: "Basically the college is aware of the problem, but that it is essential to work carefully with the Chinese. By condemning them you just alienate them."

Human rights activists have called on the World Psychiatric Association to censure or suspend China at next year's meeting of the World Psychological Association.

Articles from BMJ : British Medical Journal are provided here courtesy of BMJ Group
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