China Is Torturing Critics in Psychiatric Hospitals

China Is Torturing Critics in Psychiatric Hospitals
A man who was just escorted to the Kunming Mental Hospital lies on chairs, in Kunming, Yunnan Province, China, on Dec. 1, 2007. (China Photos/Getty Images)
Gordon G. Chang
Originally published by Gatestone Institute

China’s regime is torturing and killing critics, petitioners, activists, dissidents, and religious adherents in psychiatric hospitals, thereby bypassing its horribly misdescribed "criminal justice" system. The “barbaric practice,” as a Madrid-based nongovernmental organization (NGO) termed it last month, is still widespread.

Safeguard Defenders, in its report “Drugged and Detained: China’s Psychiatric Prisons,” detailed how police and government agents are sending Chinese citizens “for medically unnecessary involuntary hospitalizations” in the police-run Ankang system, which was established in the 1980s.
The new report updates work by leading researcher Robin Munro, author of “Dangerous Minds: Political Psychiatry in China Today and Its Origins in the Mao Era” and the groundbreaking 2000 article “Judicial Psychiatry in China and Its Political Abuses.”

In the Ankang—“peace and health”—system, detainees are strapped to beds, pumped full of drugs, subjected to electric-shock therapy, and left to lie in their own excrement.

“Some languish for years,” the NGO notes in the report. Those who survive often can barely function after release. Those released are often recommitted to such facilities without justifiable reason. One woman had been committed 20 times. Researchers Chi Yin and Jerome Cohen, writing on The Diplomat site, reported that some Chinese are confined for their lifetimes.

The Soviets perfected techniques for breaking people in psychiatric facilities, and Mao Zedong’s regime adopted them about a decade after taking power. As Munro reported in 2002, the “earliest known examples of political-style psychiatric diagnosis in China” date back to the early 1960s.

After intense criticism from the international community, the Chinese regime, in 2012 and 2013, enacted the Mental Health Law and amended its Criminal Procedure Law to require medical assessments for compulsory psychiatric treatment and judicial review of police-initiated commitments to psychiatric institutions.

The Safeguard Defenders report examined 99 cases from 2015 to 2021 and called these examples “just the tip of the iceberg.” The witness reports were first recorded by a Chinese organization.

Because the Chinese regime often ignores the procedures mandated by its own Criminal Procedure Law, why does it feel it's necessary to commit dissidents and other individuals to psychiatric facilities? After all, it already has the means to silence opponents and deter them.

Safeguard Defenders pointed out that the use of psychiatric facilities stigmatizes opponents of the regime.

“They are,” its report states, “discredited and isolated from others with this false label of ‘mental illness.’”

The system also appears to be grounded in the Chinese Communist Party’s optimistic totalitarian notion that medical treatment can make people obedient.

Sean Lin, communications director of the Falun Dafa Association in Washington, told Gatestone that the Chinese regime from the first days of the persecution of the Falun Gong religious group was focused on the “scientific transformation” of individuals. Adherents of the faith were framed as mentally ill and subject to improvement.

Chinese medical personnel administered drugs that damaged the central nervous system of adherents of that faith, intentionally overdosed them, applied extreme-strength electroacupuncture, and brutally force-fed them. These treatments were in addition to physical torture, Lin, also a microbiologist and former lab director of the viral disease branch of the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, reported.

Falun Gong adherents, according to Lin, suffered emaciation, visceral failure, organ decay, cerebral thrombosis, heart pain, paralysis, insanity, amnesia, blindness, and death.

The Ankang facilities engaged in these acts, but Lin also reported that the 610 Office, a now-dissolved unit established to persecute the Falun Gong, and other regime agencies sometimes forced healthy Falun Gong adherents into China’s regular psychiatric facilities.

“Legal reforms did not work,” Safeguard Defenders correctly reports.

The NGO goes on to demand that China, among other things, take “immediate steps to put a stop to the political abuse of psychiatry.” Amen to that.

The organization also urges China to “urgently review its responsibilities under international law as regards the treatment of psychiatric patients and endeavor to revise current legislation and improve the medical sector’s understanding of such legislation to prevent this kind of abuse from happening ever again.”

The “medical sector’s understanding”? Safeguard Defenders gets an “A” for its reporting and an “F” for this recommendation.

The NGO, with these words, seems to believe that horrific psychiatric abuses continue because Chinese doctors don't comprehend prohibitions contained in Chinese law.

That view is breathtakingly naive. The abuse of psychiatry has continued for seven decades in the People’s Republic of China. The Chinese Communist Party has changed the organizational structures and the methods of how it destroys people in psychiatric institutions, but the destruction of life continues.

Safeguard Defenders—and the international community—must finally acknowledge that the Party is inherently murderous. The only way to end the abuse of psychiatry in China, as well as the Party’s other horrific crimes, is to end its rule of China.

Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.
Gordon G. Chang is a distinguished senior fellow at the Gatestone Institute, a member of its Advisory Board, and the author of “The Coming Collapse of China.”