China city checks complainers into mental hospital

Sun Dec 7, 2008 11:53pm EST
 
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BEIJING (Reuters) - Authorities in eastern China have found a creative way to deal with residents with complaints -- checking them into a mental hospital and force-feeding them drugs, local media reported on Monday, citing victims.

Authorities in Xintai, a municipal region in eastern Shandong province, had forced at least 18 people with grievances, ranging from police brutality to property disputes, into a local mental hospital, the Beijing News said.

Chinese residents with complaints directed at local governments often travel to "petitions and appeals" offices (also called "letters and visits" offices) in provincial capitals and in Beijing after failing to get redress through lower channels.

Local governments, fearing embarrassment, often send police and other officials to intercept them and forcefully take them back to their home villages.

Sun Fawu, a 57-year-old retired miner from Dagouqiao village in Xintai, was force-fed drugs and injections during a more than 20-day stay at the Xintai Mental Health Hospital in October, the paper said.

"My head was always dizzy and I could not stay up," the paper quoted Sun as saying. He had campaigned for years to get compensation for spoiled farm land and housing stemming from coal mining near his village.

Sun was released only after he signed a document saying he was mentally ill and "would not petition again," the paper said.

Lao Shi, an 84-year-old retiree from Tianbao township, was sent directly to hospital in 2006 after traveling to Beijing to complain about a local property dispute.

The former public servant counted 18 petitioners in over two years there, a list corroborated by Wu Yuzhu, the hospital's director.   Continued...