Thu, Apr 09, 2009 - Page 5 News List

Chinese psychiatrist angers petitioners

REUTERS , BEIJING

Angry Chinese petitioners descended on Peking University yesterday, protesting comments by a prominent psychiatrist who branded them mentally ill.

But even as they arrived, police and security officers hauled them away as they shouted their complaints.

Sun Dongdong (孫東東), head of the university’s judicial expertise center, ignited public anger by suggesting that 99 percent of people who repeatedly petitioned the government were mentally ill.

The center helps judicial authorities evaluate a person’s mental health. Sun later said some of his words were taken out of context by the media and misinterpreted.

Sun said he did not say 99 percent of all “professional petitioners” in the country were mentally ill — only 99 percent of “those whom he had met.”

“I extend my sincere, deep apology to those people whose feelings are hurt,” Sun said in a statement sent to the China Daily.

At least 100 middle-aged and old petitioners demonstrated at the prestigious university.

“They [officials] beat me and left me disabled and knocked out four of my teeth. They are cruel. And now Sun Dongdong says that we petitioners are mentally ill,” said protester Xu Jiajiao from Zhejiang Province. “It’s the professor who is mentally ill.”

Liu Feiyue, who runs his own one-man human rights advocacy center in Hubei Province, was one of the first to raise an outcry against Sun’s statement. Liu organized a petition criticizing the professor.

“His views were too absurd and irresponsible,” Liu said by telephone. “We all believed that if he wasn’t rebutted, then his views could be used to justify detaining more petitioners in psychiatric hospitals.”

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