In China, Silencing Opponents With A Trip To The Psychiatric Ward

Chinese lawmakers have drafted a law designed to protect people from the so-called “made mad” phenomenon. As several high-profile cases have shown, people in power sometimes manage to force political opponents into mental hospitals.

Hubei Province, where several high-profile
Hubei Province, where several high-profile
Chao Sheng

A few days ago, China's State Council Legislative Affairs Office publicized a draft bill that deals with the nation's mental health policy. Chapter Six of the bill focuses on "liabilities." It stipulates among other things that "those who force others against their will to undergo medical examination to determine whether or not they are mentally disordered, as well as those who deliberately commit to medical institutions non-mentally disordered people as mentally disordered, are to be held liable under both criminal and civil law."

This article immediately sparked serious attention since it relates to the so-called "made mad" phenomenon, a serious – and apparently growing – problem in China. The term "made mad" refers to people of sane mind who are forced into mental health treatment and locked up in hospitals with restricted freedom of movement and communication. In order to be "cured" – and thus freed, the person must give in to the treatment by accepting whatever is required of him.

The media has shed light on numerous "made mad" cases, citing terrifying examples of how state institutions and powerful individuals use spurious reasons to label someone a potential threat in order to justify that person's internment in a mental health facility. This deprives victims of civil rights for long periods. These kinds of cases have been executed without judicial procedure. And the perpetrators have enjoyed legal impunity.

This new draft law sends out two messages. First, that current legislation is full of loopholes that must be addressed. And second, that fresh legislation is needed to mend these loopholes and thus prevent people from authoring more "made mad" cases.

The undiagnosed "psychopaths'

The term "made mad" appeared not long ago because of the widely reported cases of Peng Baoquan and Guo Yuanrong, both from Hubei Province. Boaquan, a bank employee, was forced into a mental hospital after public accusing his superior of corruption. Yuanrong, a former County Construction Bureau employee, was imprisoned in a psychiatric ward for 14 years for a similar case.

Boaquan, Yuanrong and countless others have been labeled "psychopaths' without any real medical diagnosis. The worst part is that the people who perpetrated these crimes did so with the full cooperation of the authorities, the police departments, and the hospitals.

In other words, the will of those in power – implemented by the authorities, and abetted by the professional medical institutions – is as effective as a court decision in depriving people of their freedom and civil rights. It is extra-judicial justice, a magic weapon for those in power to strike at those who threaten their position.

The new mental health bill could help bring an end to the abuse, but it falls short in several regards. Though the draft law lays out in detail how to prevent the forceable commitment of normal people as mentally ill, it presumes only a limited number of circumstances, meaning it fails to the seal the loopholes completely. If there is collusion between the authorities, police, and health officials then the law will be circumvented.

Since there is no way to prevent unscrupulous people from carrying out further abuse, the punishment should be much more severe. Alas, the current draft is very unclear in this respect. It only expresses that the wrongdoers will be "criminally liable." But how exactly? Who is to be held responsible if a local authority forces someone into a mental hospital in the name of safeguarding stability? And how do the government, the police and the hospital assume their joint liability? Does the physically and mentally damaged victim get compensated by the state?

Those questions must be answered before the bill becomes law.

Read the original article in Chinese

Photo - Toehk

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What It Means When The Jews Of Germany No Longer Feel Safe

A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.

At a protest against antisemitism in Berlin

Eva Marie Kogel


BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.

Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.

The incident at the cemetery

They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."

There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.

It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.

The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.

Photo of the grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

Jens Kalaene/dpa/ZUMA

Crimes against Jews are rising

Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.

Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.

Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.

And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?

Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously

This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.

Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.

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