Human Rights in China (HRIC) has learned that well-known AIDS activist Hu Jia is facing the prospect of China’s dreaded “judicial psychiatry,” a means of persecuting dissidents and removing them from public circulation, sometimes permanently.
According to HRIC’s sources in China, Beijing Public Security Bureau (PSB) police have recently ordered Hu Jia’s family to admit him to a psychiatric institution for evaluation and treatment, failing which the police will commit him forcibly.
The official suppression of Hu Jia intensified before a visit to Henan Province by the U.S. Ambassador to Beijing, Clark Randt, on May 26, when Randt delivered medicine and other emergency supplies to orphans in Henan’s AIDS-ravaged villages. Beginning on May 22, Beijing police confined Hu Jia to house arrest, and explicitly instructed him and his mother not to attempt to travel to the Henan villages to meet with the U.S. ambassador. After this incident, when Hu Jia began preparing commemorative activities for the 15th anniversary of the June 4th crackdown, he and his mother were ordered to “take a vacation” in the scenic Huang Shan region under the escort of two police officers. When Hu and his mother refused to comply, their home was sealed off by a large number of police officers. When a fellow activist attempted to deliver some AIDS materials to Hu Jia on the evening of June 1, police refused to allow them to meet, and gave Hu Jia a brutal thrashing that resulted in injuries to his head and left arm. On June 3, four police officers forced their way into Hu Jia’s home and said they would be staying there to monitor his activities. When Hu Jia objected, they struck him in the presence of his father and mother, then took him away and detained him in a cold, damp basement for three days and three nights. Since releasing Hu Jia on June 6, police have continued their surveillance on his home, cutting off all of the family’s telephone access and refusing to allow Hu Jia to leave the house.
The more recent order for psychiatric evaluation is causing considerable distress to Hu Jia and his parents. Hu Jia’s parents see absolutely no sign of mental abnormality in Hu Jia, and are well aware that “psychiatric treatment” has been forced upon a number of dissidents and religious practitioners, sometimes resulting in them actually becoming mentally unstable. A source passed HRIC a message from Hu Jia’s family and friends calling on the international community to take note of Hu Jia’s desperate situation. The message states, “If the police forcibly commit Hu Jia to a mental hospital against the wishes of himself and his family, this constitutes using psychiatric treatment as a form of torture and political persecution.”
Hu Jia, born in Beijing in 1973, gave up a desirable position as a television editor to become an activist in environmental and social causes. He first joined in efforts to save the endangered Tibetan antelope, then turned his attention to AIDS, serving as executive director of the Aizhi Action Project. Apart from his concern with the environment and the welfare of people with AIDS, Hu Jia has expressed concern over social justice issues, and has been involved in campaigns to free detained dissidents such as Internet activist Liu Di. This year, before the anniversary of June 4th, Hu Jia visited Tiananmen Square and laid a wreath in memory of deceased Party General Secretary Hu Yaobang, for which he was detained by police and harshly beaten. In recent weeks Hu Jia has been detained on at least four occasions.
“We are extremely concerned over the escalation of official oppression against Hu Jia,” said HRIC president Liu Qing. “The physical beatings and house arrest are unfortunately par for the course for an intellectual who exercises his conscience in China, but the threat of forced psychiatric treatment presents a form of oppression that could cause Hu Jia permanent and irreparable harm. The imposition of psychiatric treatment against political dissidents and religious believers seems to be on the increase, and is an issue that should be raising more concern in the international community. One notable case is that of Wang Wanxing, who unfurled a banner calling for a reassessment of June 4th at Tiananmen Square twelve years ago. Police forced his family to submit him to psychiatric treatment, and they have been unable to secure his release from the psychiatric hospital ever since.”
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