Firefighter Sent to Mental Hospital for Demanding Wages in China

May 12, 2011 Updated: May 12, 2011

A firefighter from Wuhan, China, was sent to a mental hospital for four years after he sought legal assistance to settle a dispute over wages at his work place. His attempt to escape finally on April 19, to prove his sanity, was only short lived. His case illustrates how Chinese authorities use mental hospitals and charges of insanity to punish people who fight for their rights.

43-year- old Xu Wu is from Qingshan District, Wuhan City. He used to work for fire department of security section of Wuhan Iron and Steel Corporation.

According to Xu, the work unit didn’t pay him the proper wages, and did not give him the same compensation as others who were doing the same work. He then brought a lawsuit against the work unit, which took over two years to process.

When the case was dismissed by the court without any compensation, Xu went to Beijing to appeal further. One day in December 2006, when he was in the midst of legal consultation at Beijing University’s Legal Assistant Center, he was intercepted by police and taken back to Wuhan. Later he was sent to Second Hospital Psychiatric Department Affiliated with Wuhan Iron and Steel Corporation, where he was held for more than four years.

Xu told the reporter from Information Times that since then his only thought was to somehow escape and prove his sanity so that he could get back to normal life.

On April 19, as the hospital was undergoing renovations, an opportunity presented itself that Xu managed to escape out of the hospital into the night. With financial assistance from a friend, he reached Guangzhou where he took a medical test in a mental hospital to prove that he does not have any mental illness.

Subsequently, on April 27, he gave an interview to the Southern TV regarding his plight. Around 1: 30 p.m. on that day, Xu Wu had just finished his interview with Southern TV Station and was about to get into a taxi to leave with his father and his friend.

According to the TV program reporter, seven or eight unidentified men then suddenly opened the taxi door, dragged both of them out, and forced them into another car. When security staff with the Southern TV Station tried to stop the car, a man with a Wuhan accent claiming to be part of the police told him to let them go.

However, the reporter from Southern TV Station managed to detain one of the men and brought him to Guangzhou Huale Street Police Station. It was confirmed that he was from Wuhan Iron and Steel Corporation security section.

The reporter from Information Times stated that the men who abducted Xu were indeed Wuhan police in plain clothes and they have charged Xu Wu with the crime of being a threat to social security and stability.

Xu’s ordeal continues and his whereabouts are unknown.

Read the original article in Chinese