11/02/2005, 00.00
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Dissident freed after 13 years in psychiatric hospital

Wang Wanxing was arrested in 1002 after he called on the Communist Party to review its judgement of the democratic movement in Tiananmen Square. His testimony features descriptions of "sadistic" doctors.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The international agency Human Rights Watch (HRW) revealed that a Chinese dissident jailed for 13 years in a military psychiatric hospital was released in August.

Wang Wanxing, a 56-year-old worker who lived in Beijing, was arrested on 3 June 1992 (the third anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre) for trying to display a banner in which he called on the Communist Party to change its condemnation of the democracy movement. After his arrest, Wang was locked up in Ankang hospital, a psychiatric institution run by the public security forces. He was admitted by doctors for "paranoid symptoms". Relatives and independent observers who visited him defined him as "lucid and mentally stable".

According to HRW, Wang was released in August shortly after the visit to China of Louise Harbour, the United Nations Human Rights Commissioner. After his release, he was put on a flight to Frankfurt, Germany, to join his wife and daughter. Before releasing Wang, the public security forces warned him not to talk to anyone about his time in detention: if he did, he would be taken back to hospital immediately.

"Wang's release is welcome news, but it highlights the fate of hundreds of other political detainees forced into psychiatric care in China for no good medical reason," Brad Adams, HRW Asia director, said in a statement. "It is time for China's leaders to decide that their 'modernisation' drive should include an end to barbaric practices such as using psychiatric facilities and medically unnecessary drugs to punish those with different political views." The dissident described some doctors and nurses as good people but said others had a "sadistic" nature. He said medical personnel used electric shock treatment to treat more difficult cases, forcing other inmates to watch the treatment-torture.

Wang spent the first seven years of his imprisonment in general wards with around 50 to 70 patients; however for the last five years he was placed with "severely psychotically-disturbed inmates, most of who had committed murder". HRW said, citing the dissident's testimony:  "The extent of patient-on-patient violence in this ward was terrifying. Wang frequently had to force himself to stay awake all night to avoid sudden and unprovoked inmate attacks."

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