Sane Chinese Put in Asylum, Doctors Find
By JOSEPH KAHN
Published: March 17, 2006
BEIJING, March 16 — Dutch psychiatrists have determined that a prominent
Chinese dissident who spent 13 years in a police-run psychiatric institution
in Beijing did not have mental problems that would justify his
incarceration, two human rights groups said Thursday.
The psychiatrists spent two days testing the dissident, Wang Wanxing, in
Germany five months after China released him and sent him abroad. They said
in a statement that their examination "did not reveal any form of mental
The report could add fuel to charges that the Chinese police use a network
of psychiatric prisons to silence political dissidents, often without trial
or right of appeal.
Mr. Wang, now 56, was confined to the psychiatric center after he was
detained in 1992 for unfurling a banner that criticized the Communist Party.
The authorities determined that he had "delusions of grandeur, litigation
mania and conspicuously enhanced pathological will," which Western human
rights groups say are diagnoses that officials have used to lock up
troublesome dissidents who have not broken any laws.
After his release in 2005, Mr. Wang described widespread abuses in the
mental asylum, known as the Beijing Ankang. He said he had lived in cells
with psychotically disturbed inmates convicted of murder and was forced to
swallow drugs to blunt his will. He also said the staff members had used
electrified acupuncture needles to punish patients while other inmates were
made to watch.
The two Dutch doctors, B. C. M. Raes, a professor of forensic psychiatry at
the Free University of Amsterdam, and B. B. van der Meer, also a forensic
psychiatrist, examined Mr. Wang in January. Their findings were released
Thursday by the Global Initiative of Psychiatry and Human Rights Watch, two
human rights groups that have been critical of China's use of psychiatric
"There was no reason that Mr. Wang had to be locked up in a special forensic
psychiatric hospital or to be admitted to a psychiatric facility," Dr. Raes
and Dr. van der Meer said in a statement. "He was not suffering from any
mental disorder that could justify his admission."
Their diagnosis contrasts sharply with one made by doctors at the Beijing
Ankang, who said when Mr. Wang was released last August that he had not been
cured. "His systematic delusions have shown no conspicuous improvement since
he was first admitted to the hospital," the Beijing examiners said, adding
that Mr. Wang should be kept under "strict guardianship" in Germany.
Human Rights Watch says it has documented 3,000 cases of psychiatric
punishment of political dissidents since the early 1980's. The group
contends that the use of penal mental asylums to confine dissidents has
increased in recent years as the police have sought ways to punish followers
of banned religious sects, political dissidents and persistent petitioners
without channeling them through the court system.
Robin Munro, an expert on the Chinese psychiatric system with Human Rights
Watch, said Mr. Wang's examination by the Dutch psychiatrists was the first
opportunity for Western specialists to directly test a diagnosis by doctors
in one of China's psychiatric prisons. He said the Chinese doctors "clearly
got a failing mark."
"The Chinese diagnosis of Mr. Wang was based on disreputable theories
inherited from the Soviet Union that claim that certain types of dissident
thinking and behavior can be attributed to severe mental pathology," Mr.
Munro said. "This is completely at variance with international standards