01/24/2009, 00.00
CHINA
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Wang Lianxi, a Tiananmen Square dissident, in psychiatric hospital

Released in 2007 after 18 years in prison, prior to the Beijing Olympics he was confined to the hospital, and is still under treatment, although his friends say that he appears to have no need of hospitalization. Human rights groups are asking that he be examined by independent psychiatrists.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Tiananmen Square protester Wang Lianxi has been confined to a psychiatric hospital. Wang had been arrested in 1989, shortly after the massacre on June 4 when the army opened fire on students and workers demonstrating on behalf of democracy, killing thousands of them.

Sentenced to death together with seven other demonstrators accused of burning military vehicles, his sentence was commuted to life in prison because he was believed to be "mentally disabled." He was released in July of 2007. After returning home, he found that his parents had died and his home in Beijing had been demolished. A neighborhood committee found him a place to sleep.

The group Chinese Human Rights Defenders charges that Wang was arrested again as "undesirable" before the Beijing Olympics, as part of a campaign to "remove" or control those believed to be troublemakers and capable of obscuring the positive image of China. He was taken to the Pingan psychiatric hospital in the Xizhimenwai district in Beijing, where he is still being held.

His friend Gao Hongming, who visited him on January 19, says that he found him to be slow in his reflexes and not clearheaded, but that he does not show signs of serious mental problems, despite his forced hospitalization.

CHRD observes that the authorities have often confined dissidents and other "undesirable" citizens to psychiatric institutions. This is in part because Chinese law does not clearly define the circumstances for subjecting someone to medical-psychiatric treatment against his will. It is unknown whether the authorities received permission from Wang's surviving relatives. Also unknown are the medical reasons and diagnoses behind his being confined for many months.

The United Nations committee against torture, in its "concluding observations" on November 21, 2008, in paragraph 26 urged China to "take measures to ensure that no one is involuntarily placed in psychiatric institutions for reasons other than medical. Where hospitalization is required for medical reasons, the State party should ensure that it is decided only upon the advice of independent psychiatric experts and that such decisions can be appealed."

CHRD is calling upon Beijing to have Wang evaluated by independent psychiatric experts.

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