09/19/2014, 00.00
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China, internment in a mental hospital for criticizing government

The new Mental Health Act of 2013 prohibits the forced hospitalization without consulting a doctor, but the authorities ignore it. Shi Genyuan and Song Zaimin "disappear" after their arrest and reappear in psychiatric facilities, tied to the bed and sedated. The practice has been going on for decades.

Beijing (AsiaNews) - Authorities in the southeastern province of Fujian forcibly interned blogger and dissident Shi Genyuan in a psychiatric hospital.  Since June 3, 2014 the man has been held in the mental health ward of hospital No. 3 in Quanzhou, where he is sedated and tied to a bed. The same treatment was dealt by Beijing police democratic activist Song Zaimin, who "disappeared" on 27 August and "resurfaced" in the capital's Pinggu psychiatric hospital. Both cases were reported by Civil Rights and Livelihood Watch.

Shi was arrested for the first time in August 2013, and detained by police on the basis of a "psychiatric examination" conducted by the same agents. In May of the same year he was charged with "inciting subversion of state power", but was later released. According to a friend, identified as Pan, the police "used mental illness as an excuse to detain him. We all know he is not mentally unstable".

Instead Song was arrested after attending an event in memory of the 25th anniversary of the massacre in Tiananmen Square, on June 4th 2014. Hou Xin, who was also an activist in Beijing, told Radio Free Asia: "I am very worried about his situation. I never thought they would resort to using a psychiatric hospital to arrest him. We want to see if we can get lawyers involved, because people don't get released from psychiatric hospitals quickly".

For several decades now internment in a psychiatric hospital has been used by the authorities to get rid of the "unwanted elements" without going to court. The national law, in fact, stated that the power to lock up anyone in these facilities was entirely in the hands of the local police. A decree of May 2013, widely publicized by state media, overturned this legislation and imposed a medical examination before admission.

According to Chinese Human Rights Defender, "the mental health law on paper is very clear: these detentions are a direct violation of personal freedom. Yet this has not stopped the use of internment being used against dissidents".


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