China Imprisons Dissidents in Psychiatric Hospitals

September 18, 2009 at 8:25 pm

In yet another report of things happening that you’d like to think can’t possibly be happening, China is using psychiatric diagnoses and imprisonment to silence thousands of dissidents. Petitioners and protestors are being given psychiatric labels such as paranoid psychosis and imprisoned in hospitals, sometimes even preemptively. One man reports of being picked up and detained in hospitals routinely before major events just to keep him out of the way.

From the PBS News Hour (9 minute video well worth watching)

…Since there are no national mental health laws protecting the rights of people who have been compulsorily hospitalized but there are rules limiting arbitrary arrest, hospitals are becoming a convenient means of silencing protestors

This type of violation of basic human rights isn’t unique to China, it’s just being done in a more blatant and politically direct fashion than seen in many other places. It is clear that in China and elsewhere psychiatric hospitals are being used as a shadow prison system for non-criminals and it’s not hard to see how this can happen. Psychiatry as an institution is largely unchallenged in its scope and clearly wields a lot of power over the lives of individuals. This level of autonomy is a perfect formula for abuses of power. Whether you argue that voluntary psychiatry does good or not, the fact remains that forced psychiatry offers a corrupt vehicle for the control of people whose behaviors are deemed undesirable but not criminal. Whether this is happening in America (and it is) or just has the potential to — there is something fundamentally wrong with any system even being in place that can imprison you without the constraint of due process and separate you from your freedom and the sanctity of your own body for speech and thought.  This is especially true when that system can do so under the guise of care when what they often really mean is the eerily familiar “common good.”

The fact that there are people like Qin Xinan and Teng Baio bold enough to speak out in a nation so violently opposed to social movement is both commendable and necessary. They have seen firsthand the fearless power that their government uses against them and face it down on behalf of themselves and their neighbors despite the risk. Meanwhile, we in America have the ability to speak up for the people around us and challenge similar oppression with (for now) relatively little personal risk and sacrifice and most of us choose not to. Perhaps we’d rather wait until the offenses are more blatant and widespread and act surprised.


Entry filed under: Human Rights, Psychiatry. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , .

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