The authorities in the former Soviet Union employed political psychiatry against a wide range of different types of people: political dissidents, religious sectarians and spiritual nonconformists, ethnic nationalists, labor rights activists, and Jewish people seeking emigration to Israel, among others. In China, the principal known target of such treatment since 1949 has been political activists of various kinds, together with a variety of people accused of "disturbing public order," such as petitioners, complainants, "whistleblowers" and "litigious maniacs." Our current lack of detailed information on individual cases does not, however, necessarily mean that people of other types and categories, similar to those seen in the former Soviet case, have not also been subjected to compulsory psychiatric treatment and hospitalization in China. For example, several cases of Chinese labor activists being dealt with in this manner have just recently come to light. Since the latter part of 1999, however, it has become abundantly clear that religious sectarians now also form a major target of politically repressive psychiatry in China.241
Among the three Falun Gong practitioners reported to have died as a result of their ordeals in Chinese mental hospitals in recent months was a woman named Shi Bei. Under pressure from the police, hospital staff reportedly gave her forced injections of high dosage sedatives and denied her food for one week in order to prevent her from propagating her spiritual beliefs inside the hospital; her precise cause of death remains unknown.259 The hospital in question was said to be the Hangzhou No. 7 People's Hospital - the same institution on which, as was noted above, three staff psychiatrists had optimistically reported in 1987:
Remarkably, the Chinese authorities have admitted quite openly that Falun Gong practitioners are now being admitted to mental hospitals in large numbers. In an official volume published in late 1999, for example, they stated:
The fact that the Falun Gong sect did not even exist in 1992 (it was formally established in the mid-1990s and grew rapidly only during the last few years) did not deter the book's authors from making this remarkable claim. Another official spokesperson went still further, however, asserting absurdly in September 1999: "Falun Gong practitioners now account for 30 percent of all mental patients in China."262 In neither case, moreover, was the coincidence between the reportedly very sizeable increase in Falun Gong admissions to mental hospitals in the first half of 1999, and the fact that it was during this same period that the government began preparing its nationwide public crackdown upon the sect, deemed to be worthy of mention.
Although widely reported overseas as being "a new anti-cult law," this decision in fact merely reinforced an existing set of provisions contained in Article 300 of the 1997 Criminal Law legitimizing the suppression of what the authorities termed "heretical cult organization" (xie jiao); the maximum penalty under Article 300 for such crimes is life imprisonment.264 Since the start of the crackdown, the Chinese authorities have frequently asserted that Falun Gong is an "evil cult" displaying the same abusive and life-threatening organizational characteristics as the Aum Shinrikyo cult in Japan, which released sarin poison gas on the Tokyo subway in 1995, the Branch Davidians cult, dozens of whose members were killed when the U.S. law-enforcement authorities stormed its headquarters in Waco, Texas in 1993, and the Solar Temple cult, many of whose members committed collective suicide in Switzerland in 1994.265 On this and other implicitly political grounds, the government has further branded the Falun Gong movement as posing a serious "threat to state security."
Besides the clear and unambiguous legal proscription of sectarian activities of all kinds in China today, however, the authorities also have at their disposal a medical justification, of sorts, for waging such an intense campaign of persecution against the Falun Gong. Since the late 1980s, the Chinese psychiatric establishment has identified a unique set of mental disorders that it says can arise from the practice of traditional qigong forms of exercise and self-cultivation, and also from a more heterogeneous range of thought and behavior broadly termed as "feudal superstitious belief" (fengjian mixin.) In 1989, the country's medical authorities formally recorded this category of psychiatric ailments in the Chinese Classification of Mental Disorders (2nd Version, also known as the CCMD-II), under the heading "mental disorders closely related to culture."271 The international psychiatric community recognizes a range of mental conditions known as "culture bound syndromes,"272 and there seems to be no reason to suppose that the improper or excessive use of qigong may not, in certain circumstances and cases, lead to various forms of mental imbalance or disorder. It is surely remarkable, however, that there so suddenly occurred, according to the official version of events, such a massive epidemiological outbreak of qigong-related mental illness across China during the precise period immediately before and after the start of the government's crackdown on Falun Gong in July 1999. Still more puzzling is the fact that, in the Chinese government's main published compilation of evidence concerning the severe psychological damage that the practice of Falun Gong is alleged to induce in its practitioners,273 the sufferers are, in all recorded cases, said to have contracted an exotic mental disorder known as "dysphrenia" - a condition that is apparently either so rare or so mild that, not only does it not appear in the World Health Organization's ICD-10, it is also entirely absent from the CCMD-II, the Chinese medical establishment's own official listing of mental disorders.274 While the legal and psychiatric establishments may not yet be collaborating, therefore, where the official treatment of Falun Gong and other religious sectarians is concerned, in quite so close and systemic a manner as they have for many years been doing with regard to the "political mania" phenomenon, the recent quantitative surge in forced psychiatric committals of Falun Gong activists nonetheless provides a clear indication that law and psychiatry are now working together in ever-closer professional tandem in the fast-growing judicial suppression of proscribed religious heterodoxy.
241 In recent years, religious sectarian movements in Russia have once again come under direct legal and medical attack from government authorities. See, e.g., "Duma Appeal on Dangerous Religious Sects," Moscow Rossiyskaya Gazeta, December 28, 1996; translated in FBIS, same date; and Lev Levenson, "Psychiatrists and Officers in Defense of Traditional Values," Ekspress Khronika, January 31, 1997.
242 "Fa lun" is the Chinese rendering of the Sanskrit word "dharma" (Buddhist law).
243 The practice of qigong has undergone a massive popular revival in China since the early 1980s. A detailed account of this phenomenon can be found in Zhu Xiaoyang and Benjamin Penny, eds., "The Qigong Boom," Chinese Sociology and Anthropology, vol. 27, no.1 (Fall 1994). On September 15, 2000, as part of the government's continuing crackdown on Falun Gong practitioners, the State Sports General Bureau issued new rules tightening up controls over the practice of qigong throughout China. See Jianshen Qigong Guanli Zanxing Banfa (Temporary Methods for Administering Bodybuilding and Qigong), available at http://www.sport.gov.cn/qigong.htm.
244 Proclamation of the Ministry of Public Security of the People's Republic of China, July 22, 1999. Using unusually strong language, the Ministry called for the Falun Gong to be "outlawed and extirpated" (yuyi qudi) throughout China. In a comprehensive denial of the civil rights of all Falun Gong practitioners, moreover, the proclamation stated: "It is forbidden to undertake assemblies, marches or demonstrations in defense or propagation of the Falun Dafa (Falun Gong), whether by means of sit-ins, petitioning the authorities, or any other such activities."
245 As the trials of Falun Gong leaders unfolded, the sect's main overseas support network issued the following translation of a directive that it claimed had recently been issued by the Beijing Bureau of Justice, imposing restrictions on detained sectarians' right of independent access to legal defense:
246 "Two More Falun Gong Members Reported Dead in Chinese Police Detention," Agence France Presse, December 7, 2000. According to the article, the number of reported Falun Gong deaths in police custody stood at seventy-four. By May 2002, the death toll of Falun Gong detainees in China reportedly had risen to more than 400 ("Young Woman Beaten to Death in Beijing Jail for Refusing to Identify Herself," statement issued from the Falun Gong website, May 2, 2002, http://www.clearharmony.net).
247 For a detailed account of the human rights violations involved in the government's anti-Falun Gong campaign, see Amnesty International, People's Republic of China: The Crackdown on Falun Gong and Other So-called "Heretical Organizations," March 23, 2000 (ASA 17/011/2000).
248 See, e.g., Elisabeth Rosenthal, "China is Said to Hold Devotees of Sect in a Psychiatric Hospital," New York Times, January 21, 2000.
249 The ethical teachings of Falun Gong reportedly make its practitioners so frank and honest that, when stopped by police while traveling on trains in recent months and asked if they are going to Beijing to petition or demonstrate on behalf of the sect, they invariably feel obliged to give a truthful reply, thereby leading to their forcible eviction from the trains or worse.
250 According to an Associated Press report on February 11, 2000, "A judge in southern China has been put in a psychiatric hospital and forced to take narcotics for refusing to renounce his belief in the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement, a rights group said today. The case of Huang Jinchun is the latest troubling sign that the communist government is using mental institutions to punish political or religious dissenters. Huang displayed no symptoms of mental illness either at work or after being sent to the hospital nearly three months ago, the Hong Kong-based Information Center of Human Rights and Democratic Movement in China reported, citing former colleagues and nurses. But at the Longqianshan Psychiatric Hospital in the southern Guangxi region, medical personnel gave Huang daily injections of a narcotic that left him sleepy and muddled, after he refused to stop practicing Falun Gong, the nurses said. `The doctors and nurses made fun of me: "Aren't you practicing Falun Gong? Let us see which is stronger, Falun Gong or our medicines?" Huang related in an appeal posted earlier this week on an overseas Falun Gong website.'"
251 See Dr. Shiyu Zhou et al., eds., "Chapter 3: Detention and Abuse in Mental Hospitals," A Report on Extensive and Severe Human Rights Violations in the Suppression of Falun Gong in the People's Republic of China - August 2000 Update (Golden Lotus Press, August 2000), pp.65-82. (The information in the report was assembled by a group of activists and researchers associated with the Falun Gong overseas support network's principal website, http://www.minghui.org.) According to this source, the circumstances of the three Falun Gong practitioners' deaths were as follows:
1) In December 1999, Yang Weidong, 54, a medical inspector in Weifang city, Shandong, was forcibly committed to the city's Kangfu mental hospital. Already in poor health after several weeks spent in police custody as punishment for having gone to Beijing to petition against the anti-Falun Gong crackdown, Yang developed edema of the liver while at the mental hospital. According to the account, "Even the doctor in Kangfu Hospital was frightened upon seeing his condition. He told the guard who watched Yang Weidong: `He is in a state of physical collapse, how come you do not send him home? His illness is already incurable.'" Yang reportedly died on December 25, several days after being released from the hospital.
252 These four case descriptions appear in A Report on Extensive and Severe Human Rights Violations in the Suppression of Falun Gong in the People's Republic of China - August 2000 Update, op. cit. The case accounts have been slightly edited to correct faulty English, but otherwise are as they appear in the original document. The full text of the report can be found at http://hrreport.fldf.net.
253 Ibid., p.72.
254 Ibid., p.76.
255 Perphenazine is an antipsychotic medication that can be administered either orally or by intramuscular injection. According to Medscape, an Internet "registered users only" website of information on psychiatry, "Perphenazine is used for the symptomatic management of psychotic disorders. Drug therapy is integral to the management of acute psychotic episodes and accompanying violent behavior in patients with schizophrenia..." (see http://www.medscape.com.)
256 Statement by Wang Yongsheng, a Ph.D. student at the physics department of Houston University. See A Report on Extensive and Severe Human Rights Violations in the Suppression of Falun Gong, p.77.
257 Ibid., p.82.
258 See Note 15, above.
259 The overseas Falun Gong support network stated in its report: "Shi Bei was simply starved to death." This was unlikely to have been the sole cause of death, however, since she was reportedly denied food for only a week.
260 Zhong Xingsheng et al., "A Preliminary Analysis of 210 Cases of Forensic Psychiatric Medical Assessment,"pp.139-141.
261 Ji Shi, Li Hongzhi and His "Falun Gong" - Deceiving the Public and Ruining Lives (New Star Publishers, Beijing 1999), p.12. Similarly, in a July 1999 report from Xinhua, the official Chinese government news agency, Dr. Zhang Tongling, a psychiatrist at the No. 6 Attached Hospital of the Beijing Medical University, was quoted as saying: "I myself have witnessed a rocketing rate of mental illness among Falun Gong practitioners since 1996." She quoted statistics from the psychiatric departments of two Beijing hospitals as showing that mentally diseased Falun Gong followers now accounted for 42 percent of all mental patients, compared with only 10.01 percent in 1996. "It is an indisputable fact that practicing Falun Gong can lead to many kinds of mental disorders, which however has never been admitted by Falun Gong advocates," said Cai Zhuoji, also a psychiatrist at the Beijing Anding Hospital" ("Medical Scientists Reveal Falun Gong Fallacies," Xinhua News Reports, July 24, 1999; reproduced in FBIS, same date).
262 The claim is made in a video CD-ROM entitled Falun Gong-Cult of Evil, issued by the Chinese government in September 1999 as a companion item to Ji Shi, Li Hongzhi.
263 Decision of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress on Banning Heretical Cult Organizations and Preventing and Punishing Cult Activities, adopted at the 12th Session of the Standing Committee of the Ninth NPC on October 20, 1999; English translation in Beijing Review, no.45 (1999). This Decision, in turn, was essentially a brief public notification of a more complex and detailed set of rules that had been formulated by the Supreme People's Court and Supreme People's Procuracy on October 8, 1999, explaining how Article 300 and other relevant provisions of the Criminal Law were to be applied in the course of the "anti-cult" crackdown. See Explanations of the Supreme People's Court and Supreme People's Procuracy Concerning Laws Applicable to Handling Cases of Organizing and Employing Heretical Cult Organizations to Commit Crimes, adopted at the 1079th Meeting of the SPC on October 9, 1999 and at the 47th Meeting of the Ninth Procuratorial Committee of the SPC on October 9, 1999; English translation in Beijing Review, no.45 (1999). The latter document is highly reminiscent of a similar set of guidelines issued by the same two bodies in August 1989 explaining how the various Criminal Law statutes on "counterrevolution" were to be applied in practice in the course of the ongoing legal campaign to suppress the nationwide pro-democracy movement of April-June 1989. See "Zuigao Renmin Fayuan, Zuigao Renmin Jianchayuan Guanyu Banli Fan'geming Baoluan he Zhengzhi Dongluan Zhong Fanzui Anjian Juti Yingyong Falü de Ruogan Wenti de Yijian (Opinion of the Supreme People's Court and Supreme People's Procuracy on Several Questions Concerning the Specific Application of Law in the Handling of Criminal Cases Committed During the Counterrevolutionary Rebellion and Political Turmoil)," August 1, 1989, in Sifa Shouce (Judicial Handbook), Vol.6 (People's Court Publishing House, Dec. 1990), pp.100-105.
264 Harsh as this seems, it actually represented an improvement over the 1979 Criminal Law, Article 99 of which (in conjunction with a September 1983 "anti-crime campaign" decision by the National People's Congress) defined the offense of "organizing and leading a superstitious or reactionary sect or society" (fandong hui-dao-men) as being a counterrevolutionary crime punishable, at maximum, by the death penalty. Under this law, literally hundreds of leaders of banned religious and other sects were executed or sentenced to up to life imprisonment in China during the 1980s. Interestingly, the term officially used since March 1997 for banned sectarian activities - xie jiao - is a reversion by the authorities to the term traditionally used by the Confucian authorities over the past millennium and more to suppress ideological heterodoxy in Chinese society. For further details of contemporary China's religious sectarian movements and their suppression by the Chinese government, see Robin Munro, ed., "Syncretic Sects and Secret Societies: Revival in the 1980s," Chinese Sociology and Anthropology, vol. 21, no. 4 (Summer 1989). For numerous case examples of religious sectarians and members of similar-style groups sentenced in the 1980s under Article 99 of the pre-1997 Criminal Law, see Human Rights Watch, Detained in China and Tibet: A Directory of Political and Religious Prisoners (New York: Human Rights Watch, 1994), pp.251-271 and pp.343-350.
265 See, e.g., "Cults Endanger National Security," Xinhua News Reports, September 27, 2000; English translation in FBIS, same date. If comparisons between the Falun Gong and other major sects or cults are to be drawn, then groups such as the Jehovah's Witnesses or (at a stretch) the Church of Scientology would seem to be more apposite and reasonable models of comparison than the very extreme examples of sectarianism raised by the Chinese authorities. One of the best English-language sources of objective information and analysis on the Falun Gong phenomenon is an Internet website assembled by the scholar Barend ter Haar: "Falungong: Evaluation and Further References," available at http://www.let.leidenuniv.nl/bth/falun.htm.
266 Hundreds of these fatal cases and other alleged tragedies are documented by the authorities in Ji Shi, Li Hongzhi and His "Falun Gong" - Deceiving the Public and Ruining Lives. It would be wrong to dismiss these official claims of widespread fatalities as false, but it would be equally inappropriate to accept them as necessarily true - or for that matter, as having the abusive significance ascribed to them by the government - until they have been independently verified and studied, something which has not yet been done. In particular, such an assessment would need to examine whether the number of reported fatalities departed significantly, in either direction, from the normal mortality rate statistics for such a large subgroup of the Chinese population as that accounted for by the Falun Gong (many millions); it is not immediately apparent that it does. And second, the officially claimed causal connection between those deaths and the practice of Falun Gong by those who died would need to be further explored and evaluated by independent medical assessors. Finally, there is no obvious reason to suppose that Falun Gong practitioners are any less susceptible to major mental illnesses, including those of the most florid and potentially dangerous kinds, than is the Chinese population in general; indeed, many if not all of the tragic cases of "Falun Gong-induced" psychopathology recounted by the Chinese authorities may eventually turn out to have been attributable to this general epidemiological factor, rather than (as is officially claimed) to the practice of Falun Gong.
267 The first survey examined the cases of 1,449 Beijing residents who practiced Falun Gong, and was conducted by a group of senior physicians in the capital, including Wang Qi, chief physician at the General Hospital for Armed Police; Li Naiyuan, chief physician at the Stomatological Hospital of Beijing Medical University; Zheng Lihua, deputy chief physician at the People's University of China Hospital; Qu Zengqiu, a pharmacist at the same hospital; Tian Xiulan, managing physician at the Beijing Hospital of Nuclear Industry; and Jing Lianhong, a physician at the Dongshi Hospital for Women and Children. The survey addressed a wide range of medical conditions found among the target patients (including diseases or complaints of the cardiovascular, digestive, musculoskeletal, respiratory, urinary, endocrine and nervous systems, as well as gynecological, skin, hematological and ear, nose and throat disorders), and the tabulated results of the study indicated that the practice of Falun Gong led to marked improvements in all these categories of health; only one patient (suffering from a digestive ailment) was reported as showing a deterioration in health (The Effect of Falun Gong on Healing Illnesses and Keeping Fit: A Survey Among Practitioners in Beijing Zizhuyuan Assistance Center, October 18, 1998 [February 2000], available at http://clearwisdom.net/eng/science_eng/survey98_2eng.htm). The second survey in 1998 examined the health effects of Falun Gong practice on a much larger sample group of practitioners in five districts of Beijing; it was also conducted by numerous highly qualified medical personnel (trained in both Western and traditional Chinese medicine), and its findings were broadly similar to those of the first survey (Falun Gong Health Effect Survey of Ten Thousand Cases in Beijing, available at http://clearwisdom.net/eng/science_eng/survey98_1eng.htm).
268 Possible examples of the latter include the sect's underlying hostility towards homosexuality and its belief, as taught by Master Li Hongzhi, that human intelligence and civilization were originally brought to planet Earth by aliens from outer space.
269 The true size and extent of the Falun Gong movement remains open to question, but it is clearly extremely large. The sect itself claims to have around 100 million practitioners worldwide, most of them in China; the Chinese government acknowledges a figure of only several million practitioners inside the country.
See also "Johannesburg Principles on National Security, Freedom of Expression and Access to Information," drafted by an international team of human rights experts, including legal scholars, U.N. rights specialists and diplomats, at a conference in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 1995 convened by the London-based NGO Article 19. The full text of the Johannesburg Principles is available in The New World Order and Human Rights in the Post-Cold War Era: National Security vs. Human Security, papers from the International Conference on National Security Law in the Asia Pacific, November 1995 (Korea Human Rights Network, 1996). According to the Principles, "The peaceful exercise of the right to freedom of expression shall not be considered a threat to national security or subjected to any restrictions or penalties."
270 The Banning of the Falun Gong and Subsequent Arrests of Practitioners, Report of the United Nations Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities, August 4, 1999. For the text of Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), see Note 36 above.
271 The Chinese terms used are "qigong ban-fa jingshen zhang'ai" and "qigong suo zhi jingshen zhang'ai" (mental disorders associated with or induced by qigong). Detailed clinical and diagnostic discussions of this culture-bound psychiatric condition can be found in the following articles: Shan Huaihai et al., "Clinical Phenomenology of Mental Disorders Caused by Qigong Exercise," Chinese Medical Journal (in English), vol. 102, no. 6 (1989), pp.445-448; Shan Huaihai et al., "A Study of the Comparison Between Hysteric-like Episodes Caused by Chinese Qigong (Deep Meditation) and Hysteria with Psychosocial Stress," Chinese Journal of Nervous and Mental Diseases, vol. 18, no. 3 (1992), pp.156-158; Xu Shenghan, "Psychophysiological Reactions Associated with Qigong Therapy," Chinese Medical Journal, vol. 107, no. 3 (1994), pp.230-233; Shan Huaihai, "Qigong Suo Zhi Jingshen Zhang'ai de Linchuang Ziliao yu Zhenduan (Clinical Material and Diagnosis on Mental Disorders Induced by Qigong)," Chinese Journal of Nervous and Mental Diseases, no.3 (1999); Yang Desen, "Qigong Neng Zhiliao Shenjingzheng yu Jingshen Jibing ma? (Can Qigong Cure Neurosis and Mental Illness?)," Chinese Journal of Nervous and Mental Diseases, vol. 26, no. 1 (2000), pp.52-53; He Jiali et al., "Butong Shiduan Qigong Suo Zhi Jingshen Zhang'ai Linchuang Duizhao Yanjiu Ji Zhenduan Biaozhun Tantao (A Clinical Comparative Study of, and Diagnostic Criteria for, Qigong-induced Mental Disorders Over Various Periods)," Chinese Journal of Nervous and Mental Diseases, vol. 26, no. 2 (2000), pp.116-117; and Zheng Hongbo et al., "Lian `Falun Gong' Yinzhi Jingshen Zhang'ai 4 Li Baogao (A Report on Four Cases of Mental Disorders Induced by `Falun Gong')," Chinese Journal of Nervous and Mental Diseases, vol. 26, no. 3 (2000), pp.142. Finally, a number of individual studies of this type involving cases where criminal charges were brought can be found in Zheng Zhanpei, Sifa Jingshen Jianding de Yinan Wenti Ji Anli (Thorny Problems and Case Examples in Judicial Psychiatric Appraisal), (Shanghai Medical University Press, 1996), pp.275-309.
272 These include, for example, "koro," a type of panic reaction among males, especially in Asia, characterized by intense fear that the penis is shrinking inside the body; "amok," a form of violent mass hysteria that is typically found in Malay society; and "latah," a condition found in many parts of Africa and characterized by fear that the soul is being taken away from the body. For a detailed discussion of these issues, see Ari Kiev, Transcultural Psychiatry (Free Press, 1982).
273 See Ji Shi, Li Hongzhi and His "Falun Gong."
274 Only a handful of references to "dysphrenia" have been found on the Internet. First, the website of Rick's College, Idaho (an institution run by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, or Mormons), contains the following cryptic definition: "Dysphrenic: bad brain" (a literal translation of the original Greek term). Second, an Italian neurological website mentions the term in passing in a brief note on "migraine madness." And third, Amnesty International provided the following information in a recent report on the anti-Falun Gong crackdown in China: "The word `dysphrenia' is not widely recognized by Western psychiatric professionals and does not appear to be defined in Western medical books. The only references found by AI's expert medical advisor is related to neurological movement disorders which occur as side effects of drug treatment for schizophrenia or a psychopathic disorder of communication - `psychopathic' meaning a psychiatric illness" (Amnesty International, People's Republic of China: The Crackdown on Falun Gong and Other So-called "Heretical Organizations," March 2000 [ASA 17/011/2000]).