Submission to UN on Individuals Subjected to Involuntary Psychiatric Commitment – September 14, 2012

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Submission to:

Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention

Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment   

Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health

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Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) respectfully submits this urgent appeal concerning seven petitioners (several of whom are also activists) believed to be currently detained against their will in psychiatric hospitals in the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Most of these individuals have also been forcibly medicated and/or subjected to other forms of cruel and inhuman treatment. For background and a broader discussion of psychiatric commitment in China, please see our recent report, “The Darkest Corners”: Abuses of Involuntary Psychiatric Commitment in China, which was submitted to the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in August 2012 for its upcoming review of China’s compliance with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The appendix of the report lists additional cases of involuntary commitment of petitioners and activists; in this communiqué, we have focused on individuals who – to the best of our knowledge– are currently detained.


Each of the detentions detailed below is arbitrary. As the Working Group noted in its Deliberation No. 7 on Issues related to Psychiatric Detention: “[T]he detention is manifestly arbitrary if a person is deprived of his liberty on the pretext of his (alleged) mental disability, but it is obvious that he is detained on account of his political, ideological, or religious views, opinion, conviction or activity.” The Working Group further explained that “psychiatric detention shall not be used to jeopardize someone’s freedom of expression . . .”


Pursuant to the Working Group’s criteria for determining when a deprivation of liberty is arbitrary, the circumstances of the individuals discussed in this urgent appeal satisfy both Category II (i.e., when the deprivation of liberty results from the exercise of the rights or freedoms guaranteed by articles 7, 13, 14, 18, 19, 20, and 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)) and Category III (i.e., when the total or partial non-observance of the international norms relating to the right to a fair trial, spelled out in the UDHR and in the relevant international instruments accepted by the States concerned, is of such gravity as to give the deprivation of liberty an arbitrary character).


Category II: The individuals discussed below have been detained for exercising their rights to freedom of opinion and expression, and in some instances, peaceful assembly and association as well. They were deprived of their liberty because they complained about government misconduct and tried to seek redress by bringing their grievances to the attention of higher government officials. Authorities detained them in psychiatric hospitals to punish them for petitioning as well as to prevent them from continuing to petition.


Category III: Because these petitioners were deprived of their liberty without any legal process whatsoever, their detention is also arbitrary under Category III. Moreover, they have no ability to challenge the lawfulness of their psychiatric detention.


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1. GU Xianghong (辜湘红), female, mid-50s, petitioner from Xiangxiang City, Hunan Province


Current Detention:Gu Xianghong has been involuntarily committed in Kangning Psychiatric Hospital (湘乡市康宁精神病医院) in Xiangxiang, Hunan since July 27, 2012. She was seized while petitioning in front of the US Embassy in Beijing, and was reportedly taken to the hospital by two Xiangxiang government officials and her brother and son.

Torture/Mistreatment: Ms. Gu has been forced to take medication and also given injections during her detention. When she initially resisted treatment, hospital personnel handcuffed her and shackled her legs. She told a human rights organization during a telephone call that her hands were swollen and extremely painful.

Background: Gu has been petitioning for many years about grievances stemming from family planning practices and her mother’s forced eviction.Gu’s current commitment is the tenth time since 1999 that she has reportedly been sent to psychiatric hospitals against her will in retaliation for her petitioning. Seven of Gu’s 10 involuntary commitments have occurred since 2008.


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2. HE Fangwu (何芳武), male, mid-40s, petitioner from Yongzhou City, Hunan Province

Current Detention: He Fangwu has been involuntarily committed at Yongzhou City Psychiatric Hospital (永州市精神病院) since Hunan officials seized him on September 11, 2007 after he blocked a car carrying Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao in Beijing. According to an individual who visited him in August 2011, Mr. He believes that he is being detained because local officials are concerned that he will return to Beijing to continue his attempt to seek redress for a longstanding grievance. Mr. He has asked the hospital to release him many times, but hospital personnel refuse to let him go, claiming they need permission from local officials. To keep He Fangwu detained, officials reportedly gave 100,000 RMB to the hospital in October 2011, and provided Mr. He with 10,000 RMB for his personal use.

Torture/Mistreatment:During his current detention, to the best of our knowledge, Mr. He has not been forced to take medication nor subjected to electric shocks. However,during a previous detention in the same institution (between December 2003 and January 2006), Mr. He was forcibly injected and medicated, and was given electric shocks if he refused these “treatments.” He reportedly suffered several health problems as a result of this mistreatment, including difficulty walking.

Background: He Fangwu began petitioning in 1992 after authorities mistreated him and his family over violations of family planning policies, and he frequently became a target for retaliation and harassment as a result of his attempts to seek redress through petitioning.


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3. JIAO Yanshou (焦延寿), male, 72, petitioner from Laizhou City, Shandong Province

Current Detention: Jiao Yanshou has been involuntarily committed since 1999 on orders of local government officials, and is currently detained at Laizhou City Hospital for Chronic Diseases (莱州市慢性病防治院).

Torture/Mistreatment: According to an activist who visited Mr. Jiao in January 2012, Jiao’s living conditions were poor. He was not well-fed, nor did he have suitable clothes. Mr. Jiao told the activist that if he voices even minor complaints, hospital personnel will beat him.

Background: Formerly a factory worker in Laizhou, Jiao Yanshou told authorities more than 20 years ago about the theft of materials by a factory manager, which resulted in Jiao being beaten and losing his job. Jiao petitioned several times to the city and provincial governments and also went to Beijing to pursue his grievance. In 1999, local authorities detained him in Rongjun Hospital, a psychiatric facility in Yantai, claiming that Jiao had a mental illness. Mr. Jiao was moved to Laizhou City Hospital for Chronic Diseases around 2007, where he remains today. His long detention only became publicly known in late 2011.

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4. LI Qidong [李启东; pseudonym: XIN Qingnian (新青年)], male, age unknown, elementary school teacher and petitioner from Shenyang City, Liaoning Province

Current Detention: Li Qidong has been involuntarily committed at Shenyang Ankang Hospital (沈阳市安康医院) since November 2010. Officials from the Shenyang Municipal Re-education through Labor (RTL) Committee sent him there after he completed an RTL term. His family has unsuccessfully appealed for his release numerous times.

Torture/Mistreatment: Personnel at the Ankang Hospital reportedly diagnosed Mr. Li with a “paranoid personality disorder,” but officials have refused his family’s request for a review of that determination. While institutionalized, Li has been forcibly medicated and given injections. Li’s family members are able to visit him three times per month but are prohibited from contacting him by phone.

Background: In 1989, village authorities forcibly seized grain from Li’s family, which traumatized Li’s brother. Because of this, Li began to criticize the local public security bureau. In November 2009, Li was given a one-year RTL punishment for “disrupting work unit order,” which he served at the Masanjiazi (马三家子) RTL facility. Li was released early in July 2010 to look after his elderly and sickly parents, but was sent back to RTL a month later to serve out his term after he posted articles online that officials claimed harmed the “stability maintenance” work of the Shenyang government. After Li’s release from RTL, authorities forcibly committed him to the Shenyang Ankang Hospital.

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5.  LIN Xiuli (林秀丽), female, age unknown, petitioner from Qingdao City, Shandong Province

Current Detention: Lin Xiuli has been involuntarily committed since May 2012, likely at Maidao Psychiatric Hospital (麦岛精神病院) in Qingdao City. Ms. Lin was taken to the hospital on May 9 after she evaded police security in Beijing and managed to hand Premier Wen Jiabao petition materials relating to her grievance.

Torture/Mistreatment: Lin said she has been detained in psychiatric hospitals previously due to her petitioning activities. In 2011 alone, Lin was forced to take medications and given injections while held for nearly 300 days at Maidao Psychiatric Hospital.

Background: Ms.Lin, who was crippled after being thrown from a building in August 2003, has been petitioning for nearly a decade over a court decision that she considered unjust. Lin has been detained more than 20 times because of her petitioning activities.


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6.  PENG Yongkang (彭咏康), female, born 1952, petitioner from Wuhan City, Hubei Province

Current Detention: Peng Yongkang has been involuntarily committed since March 5, 2008, and is now being held at Wuhan City Chukang Psychiatric Hospital (武汉市楚康精神病院), also known as Wuhan City Hui’ai Mental Hospital (武汉市惠爱心理医院) in Jiangxia District in Wuhan, Hubei Province. While petitioning in Beijing, Ms. Peng was taken into custody on March 3, 2008 by an official from Hongshan District People’s Court and several unidentified individuals. She was first taken to two other psychiatric institutions before being transferred to her current place of commitment. According to a hospital staff member, Peng’s commitment was initiated by court officials who—while acting as her “guardians”—have barred her from having visitors and have paid all the expenses involved in keeping her committed.

Torture/Mistreatment: During her ongoing commitment, visitors have regularly been blocked from seeing Peng. When volunteers from a human rights organization were able to secretly meet her in the hospital this past July, Peng told them that she developed diabetes and high blood pressure after being committed in her current place of detention. During one other previous involuntary commitment—from July 2006 to November 2007 at Wuhan City Ankang Hospital—Peng had been forcibly medicated and given injections.

Background:Years ago, Peng Yongkang fought with her brother over her parents’ estate, and she started petitioning after a Hongshan District People’s Court judge ruled that her brother should have the estate. Peng believes that the court judge was in cahoots with her brother, and has presented higher authorities with evidence of misconduct by the judge and court officials. It is believed that Peng’s forced commitments have been in retaliation for her petitioning.


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7.  YANG Yamei (杨雅梅), female, early 50s, petitioner-activist from Hulunbuir City, Inner Mongolia


Current Detention: Yang Yamei is involuntarily committed at Hulunbuir Municipal Mental Health Center (内蒙古呼伦贝尔市精神卫生中心) in Yakeshi City, Hulunbuir, Inner Mongolia. Yang was taken there by Inner Mongolian officials after she was seized while petitioning in Beijing on March 3, 2012.

Torture/Mistreatment: During a previous involuntarycommitment in 2008, Ms. Yang said she was forced to take medicine, even though the doctor administering the drugs knew she did not have a mental illness. Yang indicated that these drugs aggravated her heart disease and caused severe headaches. In July 2008, Ms. Yang’s daughter came to visit her at the center and successfully persuaded the mental health center to stop forcibly medicating her mother.

Background:Active in rights defense (weiquan) since the mid-1990s, Yang Yamei was given a three-year Re-education through Labor (RTL) punishment in 2004 in retaliation for petitioning over an economic grievance related to her business. After her release in October 2007, she continued to petition and was seized by Hulunbuir police in January 2008 and detained for 10 days. Ms. Yang was taken into custody again in March 2008 and sent to Qiqihaer Angangxi Psychiatric Hospital in Heilongjiang Province; the following month she was transferred to Hulunbuir Municipal Mental Health Center. The doctor in charge there told Yang that she would be released only if she signed an agreement related to her grievance, and police finally allowed her to be discharged in May 2009 after compelling her to accept a monetary settlement. After her release, Yang petitioned and filed lawsuits against hospital authorities and government officials over her involuntary commitment. Consequently, Yang has been detained twice more in psychiatric hospitals—first, from April 2010 to September 2011, and now her current detention, which began in March 2012.


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