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Psychiatric Torture Not “Misdiagnosed”

“We were asked to admit them as a political mission... we were incarcerating these Falun Gong practitioners in a similar fashion to the Public Security Bureau.” - Doctor in a Chinese Psychiatric Ward

LOS ANGELES (FDI) - Abuse of Falun Gong practitioners in Chinese mental institutions is widespread, ongoing, and state-sanctioned, say China Mental Health Watch (CHMHW) and the World Organization to Investigate the Persecution of Falun Gong (WOIPFG).

433-year-old Ma Yanfang (left) and 40-year-old Ma Xinxing were were killed while incarcerated in psychiatric hospitals in China. An investigation of more than 100 psychiatric hospitals across 15 Chinese provinces found 83% have detained Falun Gong practitioners, with more than half admitting they forcefully detained Falun Gong practitioners, who did not have any psychiatric symptoms, for the sole purpose of forcing them to renounce their beliefs.

433-year-old Ma Yanfang (left) and 40-year-old Ma Xinxing were were killed while incarcerated in psychiatric hospitals in China. An investigation of more than 100 psychiatric hospitals across 15 Chinese provinces found 83% have detained Falun Gong practitioners, with more than half admitting they forcefully detained Falun Gong practitioners, who did not have any psychiatric symptoms, for the sole purpose of forcing them to renounce their beliefs.

“The insidious nature of the psychiatric treatment of Falun Gong practitioners in China is both systematic and purposeful,” says the joint statement. (full statement)

According to a recent WOIPFG investigation, the majority of Chinese mental hospitals admitted that they “forcefully detained Falun Gong practitioners, who did not have any psychiatric symptoms, for the sole purpose of transforming them.” (report)

The two organizations are responding to a joint statement issued in May by World Psychiatric Association (WPA) President Ahmed Okasha and Chinese Society of Psychiatry (CSP) President Zhou Dongfeng. In it, CSP is said to have found instances in which ‘misdiagnosis’ led to mistreatment of Falun Gong practitioners.

The statement represents the first time an official Chinese organization recognized that mistreatment of Falun Gong practitioners in Chinese psychiatric wards has been taking place.

Falun Dafa Information Center spokesperson Mr. Levi Browde says that the admission serves as a reminder of the effectiveness of pressure from the WPA and the international community.

Nonetheless, he says, “The Chinese government and CSP are still not taking responsibility for what has been shown to be systematic abuse of Falun Gong practitioners in mental hospitals. If anything, calls for an end to the torture, and demands that CSP comply with WPA’s investigation orders should now be made even stronger.”

CSP Uncooperative and Toeing Communist Party Line

In August 2002, following reports that psychiatric wards were being used to torture mentally-healthy Falun Gong practitioners, WPA passed a resolution demanding that China allow independent investigation. In spite of being a WPA member, CSP rejected the resolution, saying they would not allow face-to-face meetings with Falun Gong practitioners.

Two years later, a WPA investigation has yet to take place, leaving some wondering how it is possible to reach an agreement without first scrutinizing the extent of the abuses in China.

Mr. Browde says SARS is an example of the Chinese government’s pattern of cant and half-truths. In the spring of 2003, under pressure from international media and the World Health Organization, the Chinese government conceded underreporting SARS. Yet in spite of the appearance of coming clean, it continued the cover up. Journalists who reported on new cases are still incarcerated, and even the famous doctor who first exposed the scandal has been forbidden to speak with the media and detained.

“Saying that psychiatric torture of Falun Gong practitioners is due to the therapists’ lack of training is like saying that the deaths of 1047 Falun Gong practitioners from torture in custody is due to policemen’s lack of training” says Mr. Browde. “It’s ignoring the basic fact that the country’s once-most powerful official has publicly stated that ‘no means are too extreme to eradicate Falun Gong’ and as a result, torture of Falun Gong practitioners has been widespread in China for the past five years.”

Watchdog CHMHW concurs by saying that, as an organization under the Communist Party, CSP is unable to speak independently and openly.

“The Communist Party under the leadership of Jiang Zemin organized a systematic campaign to eradicate Falun Gong, and the CSP as an organization has no choice but to take part in this campaign,” says a CHMHW letter. “This is the only reason for the systematic psychiatric abuse of Falun Gong practitioners in China.”

“Misdiagnosis” Prescribes Torture as Treatment?

In June 2000, the Washington Post covered the story of Mr. Su Gang. The young computer engineer and Falun Gong practitioner traveled to Beijing to protest the ban on Falun Gong and was thus dragged to a mental hospital by police. There, “doctors injected Mr. Su twice a day with an unknown substance…. A week later, he could not eat or move his limbs normally.

On June 10, the previously healthy young man died of heart failure.”

CHMHW cites use of extremely high doses of nerve-damaging drugs, sleep deprivation, and spiteful use of high-voltage electric shock as common methods used to torture Falun Gong practitioners inside mental institutions.

Such torture, CHMHW says, “has nothing to do with the lack of psychiatric training or professional skills [as CSP claims]...These are not typical psychiatric procedures that were by accident administered over and over again to people who all happened to practice Falun Gong.”

A WOIPFG investigation of over 100 Chinese hospitals earlier this year discovered that most psychiatric hospitals in China forcefully detain Falun Gong practitioners under political pressure. The investigation found abuse throughout every region of China. The purpose is always to “transform” practitioners.

“Transformation is not a psychiatric term,” says the WOIPFG report. Instead, “it means that the practitioner renounces his belief in favor of the current belief of the totalitarian state.” In other words, if one’s world view is different from that of the state – including a belief in Falun Gong’s principles of “truth, compassion, and tolerance” – one is considered insane.

The treatment’s “success” is measured upon whether or not the practitioner denounces and renounces Falun Gong.

Over 1,000 Falun Gong practitioners are believed to have been administratively sent to mental hospitals. “These more than 1,000 mentally-healthy Falun Gong practitioners…were subjected to inhumane abuse, not treatment,” says the WOIPFG-CHMHW statement.

Policemen Turned Psychiatrists?

As early as 2000 Robin Munro, writing in the Columbia Journal of Asian Law, said a “flood of reports” indicated that many Falun Gong practitioners were being “forcibly sent to mental hospitals by security authorities.”

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Human Rights in China, and the US State Department’s Office of International Religious Freedom have also reported on such psychiatric abuse of Falun Gong practitioners. AIDS and June 4 activists have similarly been sent to mental hospitals for political reasons.

Munro called it “a worrying revision to the widespread pattern of arbitrary political-psychiatric abuse that prevailed during the Cultural Revolution.”

Mr. Browde agrees, adding “This is why the work of organizations such as WPA is so important, and we encourage them to continue pressing their Chinese counterparts so as to put an end to the horrible acts of torture against Falun Gong practitioners that are on-going in many Chinese psychiatric facilities.”

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