IV. A SHORT GUIDE TO POLITICAL PSYCHOSIS
As a preface to more detailed discussions of the Chinese medico-legal concept of political insanity since the Cultural Revolution, it may be helpful to have before us a capsule definition of what, more specifically, the Chinese judicial and psychiatric authorities have in mind when they speak of "political cases" involving the commission of crimes by the allegedly mentally ill. The following passage, taken from a textbook on forensic psychiatry produced in 1983 by the official publishing house of the Ministry of Public Security, fulfills this purpose well. Published less than five years after the official denunciation of the Cultural Revolution, it affirms and incorporates key elements of the still deeply-entrenched abusive concepts and practices of that era, while at the same time seeking - in accordance with the more modern and "scientistic" official ethos of China in the 1980s - to cloak them in the terminology of modern medical science. Moreover, it provides a virtual roadmap of the political abuse aspects of the system of forensic-psychiatric evaluation and custody that, only four years later, was to be formally adopted and developed by the Chinese government as the Ankang regime.
Manifestations of Counterrevolutionary Behavior by the Mentally Ill 125
As Article 90 of the  Criminal Law points out: "
All acts carried out with the aim of overthrowing the political power of the dictatorship of the proletariat and the socialist system, and which endanger the People's Republic of China, are crimes of counterrevolution." Under the dominant influence of pathological thinking and other symptoms of psychological disease, mentally ill people may engage in behavior that sabotages the proletarian dictatorship and the socialist state. In terms of form and consequence, these acts constitute crimes of counterrevolution. The most commonly encountered pathological states involving counterrevolutionary behavior by the mentally ill are delusions of grandeur and delusions of persecution.
A mentally ill person suffering from delusions of grandeur, for example, may think that he is the "head of the Central Committee" or a "leading political figure" [lingxiu renwu], and may formulate "guidelines" and "policies" as a replacement for existing policies, laws or decrees that he thinks are unreasonable. In one case, a mentally ill person proclaimed himself as a "peasant revolutionary leader" and called for a new political party to be set up in order to carry out a second revolution, and he openly drew up a manifesto and handed out leaflets.
People suffering from delusions of persecution with a certain specific content, for example those who deludedly [sic] harbor feelings of suspicion towards the Party organization, government departments and certain leading officials, may adopt all kinds of retaliatory measures against them, thereby occasioning counterrevolutionary behavior. Still other kinds of mentally ill people, those suffering from disorders of thought and logic, try to interpret and understand the present political situation [in China] from the standpoint of pure theory. A mentally ill person, for example, owing to his divorcement from reality, applied the former political orthodoxy to China's present-day context: the patient insisted that the Cultural Revolution had been entirely necessary and extremely timely, and he even went around publicly arguing his case with others. In addition, people with pathological personality disorders may also engage in various kinds of counterrevolutionary behavior.
Identifying Counterrevolutionary Behavior by the Mentally Ill
Counterrevolutionary behavior carried out by mentally ill people is to be distinguished from the commission of such behavior by genuine counterrevolutionary elements. The following basic hallmarks will assist us in ascertaining those in the former category:
In analyzing the personal history of an individual engaging in counterrevolutionary behavior, no historical origins or social background showing any logical relationship [with the behavior in question] can be identified. That is to say, no conformity can be found between the nature of the counterrevolutionary behavior and the person in question's previous political demeanor, ideological make-up and moral or ethical quality.
The content of the behavior displays a certain degree of absurdity and lack of commensurability with the actual status and capacity of the person concerned. For example, an ordinary student expressing the wish to become a major and important figure: most people would regard this as being something quite unimaginable. Or a person who groundlessly suspects the leadership of persecuting and harming him and then proceeds to focus his resentment upon the entire Party organization: this represents a marked deviation from normal logical reasoning and inference.
The person concerned carries out the counterrevolutionary behavior in a brazen and flagrant manner and with no sign of scruples or misgivings. In a publicly confrontational manner, he or she will hand out leaflets in broad daylight and deliver speeches on the main road or at street corners. Naturally, some mentally ill people may act in a more covert manner than this; yet as soon as they're caught, they admit to everything quite frankly and unreservedly. In addition, mentally ill people may write anonymous letters, but often these are not genuinely anonymous but rather a manifestation of some mental impairment. For example, a person suffering from mental illness wrote a letter to all Military Regions in the country and to the Central Committee, signing his name as "Chen Zhenli" ["Chen the Truth"]; this was not his real name, but he still wrote his actual address on the envelope. After the case was cracked and he had been caught, the person was asked why he had written this anonymous letter. He replied that it was actually an open letter: he'd used the name "Chen Zhenli" because he had the truth on his side and the viewpoints he expressed were all "true."
The various elements of the counterrevolutionary-behavior process are generally only loosely interconnected and may be logically self-contradictory. They can also show a lack of consistency over time - sometimes active and positive, but at other times passive and negative - and may even be self-repudiatory in nature.
The most important grounds for ascertaining the commission of counterrevolutionary behavior by the mentally ill is where, necessarily, a correspondence exists between the particular manifestation of mental abnormality and the mental illness in question. A detailed investigation of the person's background and medical history may reveal additional psychiatric symptoms, and the counterrevolutionary behavior will then be seen as simply one manifestation or symptom of the mental illness.
The official literature on forensic psychiatry in China in recent decades is replete with formulations expressing, more or less overtly, all of the theoretical themes and contours mentioned above. To show that the general theory is alive and well in contemporary China, it should suffice to cite at length one further authority, Long Qingchun, a leading forensic psychiatrist at the Beijing Ankang institute, who included the following comparative discussion in a textbook which he edited in 1994:
What Is the Difference Between a Paranoiac and a Political Dissident?126
There is a certain type of person with the mental illness of paranoid psychosis [pianzhixing jingshenbing]. The content of the fantasies and delusions of such persons does not come from their having been persecuted, but is mainly about state policies and principles. Such persons continually submit petitions, and are often taken by non-specialists to be political dissidents [chi butong zhengjianzhe]. But there is a difference in nature between the two.
Paranoiacs, commonly known as "document crazies" [wen fengzi], manifest [their illness] through their loss of reason in political theory. With respect to all sensitive [political] issues, they listen only to themselves and think, "Only I am right." Although they might focus on one or two specific issues, generally they have both historical problems and current problems.127 Their political theory and their political stance are mutually contradictory; although they oppose the [government's] general line and policies, they also support Marxism-Leninism and materialism. Political dissidents are relatively specific. They have dissenting opinions about certain specific issues, and don't simply oppose everything.
Paranoia is a kind of morbidity; therefore, the delusions and fantasies are self-contradictory. They are not plausible and consistent, and have no capacity to spread to others. That which is expressed by political dissidents is logical and has a certain capacity to spread to [literally: "infect"] others.
A paranoiac will take any opportunity to peddle his views, without regard to time, place, or audience. A political dissident will choose the time, place, and audience for expressing his views; he will not start talking to just anyone he runs into.
The acts and views of paranoiacs do not match their education, reading, and status. There was, for example, an old retired worker with only three years of elementary school education who worked untiringly to write a "Manifesto of Scientific Communism."128 He bought a typewriter and printer with his own money and sent his "work" out everywhere. Neither his wife nor his children could convince him to stop. The acts and views of political dissidents are consistent with their learning and their status; moreover they generally have better sense than to pursue something in complete disregard of the [legal] consequences.
Disarmingly enough, the basic distinction that Long appears to be drawing here between political lunatics and dissidents is that while the former engage in nonsensical rambling, what the latter say makes a lot of sense and is broadly convincing to others. Two more central points should be noted in this context however. First, the political dissidents in question, while escaping psychiatric incarceration for their oppositional viewpoints, would for the most part have been severely dealt with under criminal law provisions against "counterrevolution," since 1997 renamed as "crimes of endangering state security." Second, those diagnosed as being "paranoid psychotics" following their arrest on similar charges of political subversion will, in most cases, neither be freed from police custody nor given appropriate treatment, whether out-patient or in-patient, for their alleged politico-psychiatric disorders. Rather, they will be declared "not legally responsible" (i.e. non-imputable) and then placed indefinitely in Ankang custody or similar. A third vital issue also arises in all such cases: whether the person concerned was genuinely suffering, in fact, from any internationally recognized mental disorder. These various topics will be addressed at greater length and in different contexts below.
For now, it should suffice to note that in both of the above passages from 1983 and 1994, respectively, a basic distinction was drawn between "genuine" political offenders, counterrevolutionaries, on the one hand, and mentally disordered political offenders, or what the authorities colloquially call "political lunatics" and we may perhaps refer to as "pseudo-counterrevolutionaries," on the other. This was certainly progress as compared to the situation of forensic psychiatry during the Cultural Revolution, when the dividing line in this area became grotesquely blurred. But what did not change after 1978 was the authorities' firm insistence that, in both types of situation, a serious political crime had been committed.
125 See Liu Anqiu, ed., Sifa Jingshenbingxue Jichu Zhishi (Basic Knowledge in Forensic Psychiatry), (Beijing: Qunzhong Chubanshe, 1983), pp.18-19.
126 See Long Qingchun, ed., Sifa Jingshen Yixue Jianding Zixun Jieda (Consultative Questions and Answers for Forensic-Psychiatric Medical Evaluations), (Beijing: Chinese University of Politics and Law Publishing House, 1994), pp. 58-59.
127 "...wangwang shi ji you lishi wenti, you you xianshi wenti." In China, the phrase "having historical problems" generally indicates that the person in question was accused of (and usually punished for) "bourgeois" or "counterrevolutionary" views or activities in the past; similarly, the phrase "having current problems" often indicates that the person is a current target of such political suppression (c.f. the terms "lishi fan'geming" and "xianxing fan'geming," meaning "historical counterrevolutionary" and "active counterrevolutionary"). A better translation of "wenti" in this context might thus be "political record" or "political taint."
128 See Section VII. "An Illustrative Case," below, for a detailed account of this case.