A longtime Chinese dissident committed to a psychiatric hospital after displaying a banner in Tiananmen Square on the third anniversary of the 1989 pro-democracy demonstrations has been freed after 13 years, a human rights group said yesterday.
Wang Wanxing (
The group said the release was timed ahead of a visit to China in late August by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour.
Wang was warned not to speak of his experiences or he would be returned to the asylum, Human Rights Watch said.
Wang, a Beijing worker, was arrested in Tiananmen Square on June 3, 1992, when he tried to unfurl a protest banner. He was asking the ruling Communist Party to reevaluate its condemnation of the 1989 democracy movement and to compensate him for past political persecution for criticizing the radical leaders of the 1966-1976 Cultural Revolution.
Wang was diagnosed with paranoia when he entered Ankang, a facility run by Beijing police, but family and independent observers have said he is lucid and stable.
He was released briefly in 1999 but was forced to return to Ankang after he said he might publicly discuss his confinement with foreign reporters.
"Wang's release is welcome news, but it highlights the fate of hundreds of other political detainees forced into psychiatric care in China for no good medical reason," said Brad Adams, Asia director for Human Rights Watch, in a statement. "It is time for China's leaders to decide that their `modernization' drive should include an end to barbaric practices such as using psychiatric facilities and medically unnecessary drugs to punish those with different political views."
According to Human Rights Watch, Wang had kind words for some of the doctors and nurses at the asylum, but described others as being "basically sadistic" in nature.
For the first seven years, Wang said he was held in a general ward with 50 to 70 inmates but was moved to one with "severely psychotically disturbed inmates, most of whom had committed murder" during the last five years of his stay.
"The extent of patient-on-patient violence in this ward was terrifying," Human Rights Watch said in a statement, citing Wang's testimony. "He frequently had to force himself to stay awake all night to avoid sudden and unprovoked inmate attacks."
Staff would use shock treatment to punish difficult patients and make other inmates watch, the group said.
"These reports are credible and disturbing," Adams said.