Released Tiananmen Prisoner Incarcerated in Psychiatric Institution since Olympics

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Released Tiananmen Prisoner Incarcerated in Psychiatric Institution since Olympics

(Chinese Human Rights Defenders, January 22, 2009) – CHRD learned today that Wang Lianxi (王连喜), a former worker who was released from prison in 2007 following 18 years of incarceration for his role in the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, is incarcerated at a Beijing mental institution. Wang, believed to be hospitalized involuntarily, was detained ahead of the Olympics to prevent him from “making trouble” during the Games.

Arrested during the government crackdown on pro-democracy protestors shortly after June 4, 1989, Wang was swiftly sentenced to death along with seven co-defendants accused of setting fire to military vehicles. He was not executed, however; citing his mental disabilities, his sentence was commuted to life in prison. In July 2007, after serving 18 years in prison, Wang was set free. But by the time he was released, his parents had passed away and his home in Beijing had been demolished. With nowhere to go, Wang was given accommodation in a couple of locations with the help of his Neighborhood Committee.

On the eve of the Olympics, however, Wang was caught in the sweep of “undesirables” across Beijing as authorities labored to remove those who might make trouble or might not present a positive image of China to the world. Wang was taken to the Pingan Psychiatric Hospital in Xizhimenwai District, Beijing. On January 19, 2009, Gao Hongming (高洪明), a friend of Wang’s, discovered that Wang was still incarcerated in the hospital. According to Gao, who visited his friend the same day, Wang’s reaction speed was diminished, and his mind not particularly agile, but otherwise he showed no signs of serious mental disability.

The practice of using psychiatric institutions to confine “undesirable” citizens such as dissidents and petitioners by authorities in China is a well-documented and continuing problem. The Chinese legal framework for involuntary hospitalization is vague and ill-defined. The relevant law, Article 18 of the PRC Criminal Code, includes no concrete details as to the circumstances under which individuals should be subjected to compulsory medical treatment.

CHRD suspects that Wang was committed to a mental institution, and continues to be held within, not for the purpose of treatment but because authorities were concerned about the public image of Beijing during the Olympics. CHRD has not found any evidence suggesting that Wang or his family consented to the hospitalization or that any independent mental health evaluation was conducted to determine whether Wang’s mental condition was serious enough to pose any real danger to society such that he needed to be hospitalized.

The UN Committee against Torture, in its “Concluding Observations” CAT/C/CHN/CO/4

21 November 2008, paragraph 26) recommended that China “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 calls on the Beijing authorities to conduct an evaluation of Wang’s mental health by independent psychiatric experts. If there is no evidence to suggest that he has any mental conditions that would pose any serious danger to society, he should be immediately and unconditionally released.

For more information on involuntary hospitalization, please see:

Persistent Torture, Unaccountable Torturers: A Report on China’s Implementation of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (November 11, 2008)

Dancing in Shackles: A Report on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders in China, 2007 (May 1, 2008)

For more information on Tiananmen protestors, please see:

Nineteen Years on, Tiananmen Protesters Still Languish in Prison (June 3, 2008)

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