Wang Wenhua was tending to his liquor company in Henan Province last July when an ambulance stopped at the doorstep. Six men jumped out and pinned him to the ground, taking his cell phone and Rolex watch; they hustled him into the vehicle and drove him to the Zhengzhou Mental Institute, where he was pronounced “mentally ill,” despite his protestations to the contrary.
The incident, reported in the Dahe Times recently, underscores how the psychiatric system can be easily co-opted and abused in China. Often it is the Party’s security services that declare mentally healthy people “ill,” and lock them up as punishment. Such abuses have been documented against dissidents, petitioners, and Falun Gong practitioners.
But the case of Wang Wenhua demonstrates how the system can also be abused by private parties who harbor a grudge. In some cases they may be able to pay off the doctors, nurses, and police. In Wang’s case, the puppet-master was his ex-wife, who made a false report that Wang was crazy and needed treatment. It is unclear if money changed hands.
The story was only reported in China because it seemed to show justice in action: a District Court in Henan ruled that the Zhengzhou Mental Institute owes Wang, 49, an apology and 30,000 yuan (approximately US$4,826) for emotional distress
When he arrived at the hospital Wang was tied by his hands and feet to a hospital bed for 24 hours, while doctors and nurses force-fed and injected him with medication. He wasn’t told what it was.
Wang was beaten if he tried to clarify that he was not crazy, or when they felt he did not cooperate. He wasn’t allowed to walk outside his hospital room or hallway.
On the third day of the treatment, he managed to borrow the cell phone of a another patient’s family member, and called his family for help.
His younger brother arrived with a lawyer and demanded Wang’s release. Staff initially resisted, but he was allowed to walk free. In the process it came out that it was Yin Hong, Wang’s ex-wife, that had told the hospital that Wang was mentally ill and needed “treatment.”
A psychiatrist at Zhengzhou University told the Dahe newspaper that as long as someone poses no threat to society, there is no reason to institutionalize them. Potential mental patients must first be clinically diagnosed before being admitted at a mental hospital, he said.
Chinese netizens remarked that the case seemed to demonstrate the miasma of proper law enforcement in China, which would prevent the sort of punishment Wang received.
A Chinese netizen from Tianjin suggested sarcastically that Chinese mental hospitals could easily be upgraded to top-level concentration camps, specifically designed to trap healthy people who don’t have power.
Another said that even though China has passed the Mental Health Act, serious problems remain. It is not until people themselves are falsely locked up in these places that they understand the importance of freedom, he wrote.
“People can casually be sent to labor camps and illegally institutionalized,” another netizen, named Tie er, said. “This mentally ill social system is terrifying.”
The Epoch Times publishes in 35 countries and in 21 languages. Subscribe to our e-newsletter.