Petitioners denounce scholar for labelling 99% of them insane
(TibetanReview.net, Apr 11, 2009) — A prominent Chinese psychiatrist has blurted out the probable reason why petitioners in China are regularly harassed, beaten and otherwise punished, with their grievances being very rarely, if ever, addressed. Sun Dongdong, the head of Peking university's judicial expertise center, raised public outrage by suggesting that 99 percent of people who repeatedly petitioned the government were mentally ill. His comment was significant because the center helps judicial authorities evaluate a person's mental health, reported Reuters Apr 8.
On Apr 8, angry petitioners descended on the university. The report said at least 100 middle-aged and old petitioners demonstrated at the prestigious university, shouting out complaints against Sun and publicizing their own grievances. It quoted one petition as saying, "They (corrupt officials) beat me and left me disabled, and knocked out four of my teeth. … And now Sun Dongdong says that we petitioners are mentally ill."
China’s detention of petitioners and protesters in psychiatric hospitals has attracted criticism from rights activists and international psychiatric groups for many years.
Following the outburst of outrage, Sun has maintained that he had been misunderstood by the public and quoted out of context by the media, although his explanation is not very convincing. The official China Daily newspaper said Apr 7 that it had received a statement from Sun, explaining that 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." And he was quoted as saying, "I extend my sincere, deep apology to those people whose feelings are hurt."
Earlier, in his comments published in the Mar 23 issue of China Newsweek, Sun had, reportedly, said, "99 percent of professional petitioners are mentally ill, most of them paranoid, and could be forcibly detained in mental hospitals" because they were disturbing public order.
Last updated on Apr 11, 2009 17:45:07