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Activist Sent to Mental Hospital

February 12, 2010

February 10, 2010 1

HONG KONG -- Chinese dissident He Jian, a
signatory to the Charter 08 petition calling for
broad political and democratic reforms, has been
confined to a Shanghai mental hospital, according to knowledgeable sources.

He frequently circumvented China’s so-called
Great Firewall software to outmaneuver China’s
aggressive online censorship, posting articles on
Twitter and other overseas Web sites in support
of Charter 08 and its drafter, Liu Xiaobo.

Liu was sentenced in December to 11 years’
imprisonment for initiating the manifesto.

Police in Shanghai’s Putuo district detained He
at the Putuo Psychiatric Health Center "two or
three days ago," sources said Tuesday.

An officer contacted by phone at the Putuo Police
Station declined to comment, saying he wasn’t "involved in particular cases.”

But an official at the Putuo Psychiatric Health
Center confirmed that He had been confined there.

"Mr. He Jian is now in the hospital," one staff
member said, "on Psychiatric Ward No. 3."

A nurse on the ward said he was in bed no. 48,
but added, "You have to talk to the chief duty doctor to know more about him.”

"He was sent in by police -- two or three days ago," she said.

Calls to He’s mother, Zhang Xiaoyun, rang unanswered Tuesday.

Last post on Twitter

He had posted online that, for signing Charter
08, he has received death threats from Shanghai
authorities and been held in a “black jail” or illegal detention center.

Plainclothes police also beat his mother, he wrote.

His last known communication was a Twitter
posting on Jan. 26, in which he disclosed that a
local police officer had phoned his mother to ask
that he report to police the following day.

He hasn’t been seen since, friends say.

He Yongquan, a Shanghai rights activist, said
Tuesday that Shanghai is now seeing a harsh crackdown on dissidents.

Charter 08 demands a new Chinese constitution
guaranteeing human rights, the open election of
public officials, and freedom of religion and expression.

Some 10,000 people signed the charter over the
last year, although government censorship has
left most Chinese unaware that it exists. Inside
China, more than 300 people, including some of
the country's top intellectuals, have signed it.

Chinese authorities have long made use of
in-patient psychiatric wards to confine their
critics, including dissidents as well as
petitioners, who travel to the capital seeking
redress for grievances against local authorities and other powerful figures.

Psychiatric abuses

A 2009 book published online, Psychosis: the
Social Disorder of China’s Mental Disease,
reported that Chinese citizens trying to pursue
complaints against authorities can find
themselves confined in mental hospitals where
they are forcibly medicated and subjected to electric shock.

The book, which covers 57 such cases, was written
in Chinese by Liu Feiyue of the rights group Civil Rights and Livelihood Watch.

Its allegations echo those made in interviews by
petitioners seeking redress from the government
who have been held and released -- as well as by several officials.

In a highly unusual news item also in 2009, a
state-owned Chinese newspaper, New Beijing News,
reported that a 57-year-old man was twice
forcibly committed to the Xintai Psychiatric
Hospital in Beijing after trying for years to
obtain compensation for houses and farmland lost
to the coal-mining industry in his village.

A landmark 2002 report, Dangerous Minds, prepared
by Human Rights Watch and the Geneva Initiative
on Psychiatry, said that "since the earliest
years of the People's Republic [of China],
political dissenters, religious nonconformists,
whistle-blowers, and other dissenting citizens
have consistently been viewed by the Communist
Party of China as posing a major political threat to society."

Such people are often "forcibly committed to
various types of psychiatric institutions," the report said.

Deep annoyance

In a measure of its annoyance with Charter 08 and
those who signed it, China's Foreign Ministry
warned on Tuesday against giving a Nobel Peace Prize to Liu Xiaobo.

"If the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded to such a
person, it is obvious that it is totally wrong," a spokesman said.

PEN American Center president Kwame Anthony
Appiah last week sent a nomination for Liu to the
Norwegian Nobel Committee, noting his
"distinguished and principled leadership in the
area of human and political rights and freedom of expression."

Report by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin service.
Translated by Ping Chen. Mandarin service
director: Jennifer Chou. Written for the Web in English by Sarah Jackson-Han.

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