Thursday, November 11, 2010

Outspoken Chinese Risk Confinement in Mental Wards

Outspoken Chinese Risk Confinement in Mental Wards
Du Bin for The New York Times
November 11, 2010

LOUHE, China — Xu Lindong, a poor village farmer with close-cropped hair and a fourth-grade education, knew nothing but decades of backbreaking labor. Even at age 50, the rope of muscles on his arms bespoke a lifetime of hard plowing and harvesting in the fields of his native Henan Province.

But after four years locked up in Zhumadian Psychiatric Hospital, he was barely recognizable to his siblings. Emaciated, barefoot, clad in tattered striped pajamas, Mr. Xu spoke haltingly. His face was etched with exhaustion.

“I was so heartbroken when I saw him I cannot describe it,” said his elder brother, Xu Linfu, recalling his first visit there, in 2007. “My brother was a strong as a bull. Now he looked like a hospital patient.”

Xu Lindong’s confinement in a locked mental ward was all the more notable, his brother says, for one extraordinary fact: he was not the least bit deranged. Angered by a dispute over land, he had merely filed a series of complaints against the local government. The government’s response was to draw up an order to commit him to a mental hospital — and then to forge his brother’s name on the signature line.

He was finally released in April, after six and a half years in Zhumadian and a second mental institution. In an interview, he said he had endured 54 electric-shock treatments, was repeatedly roped to his bed and was routinely injected with drugs powerful enough to make him swoon...

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