Thursday, January 4, 2007
Normally I don't plug individual books or articles (then I might have to start justifying why I don't plug others, and that's not a road I want to go down), but I make an exception for material that is really outstanding or hard to find or some combination of both. In this case both criteria are satisfied (it's not on Amazon.com).
The book in question is Robin Munro, China's Psychiatric Inquisition: Dissent, Psychiatry and the Law in Post-1949 China (London: Wildy, Simmonds and Hill, 2006), a thorough study of the political abuse of psychiatry in China based on Munro's Ph.D. thesis (Department of Law, School of Oriental & African Studies, University of London). (I should perhaps disclose a personal connection: I have been a friend of the author for many years.)
This is an unimpeachably (and in my opinion irrefutably) researched book, based largely on openly published Chinese sources. As a result, skeptics don't need to take the author's word for it; they can verify his sources for themselves. Although Munro's previous works on this subject have, not surprisingly, subjected him to criticism, none of the criticism I have seen - even where it rises above ad hominem name-calling - actually addresses the sources he cites in such detail and what they tell us. In particular, many of his critics have focused on Falungong-related issues, which are just a minor part of the overall story. Political abuse of psychiatry existed well before the anti-Falungong campaign and continues quite apart from it.
For a debate on earlier work in this area by Munro (which will bear out my characterization of the criticism), see the following (a symposium issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and Law, and a response by Munro in a subsequent issue):
- RJ Munro, Political psychiatry in post-Mao China and its origins in the cultural revolution, J Am Acad Psychiatry Law, Mar 2002; 30: 97 - 106
- AA Stone, Psychiatrists on the side of the angels: the Falun Gong and Soviet Jewry, J Am Acad Psychiatry Law, Mar 2002; 30: 107 - 111
- FW Hickling, The political misuse of psychiatry: an African-Caribbean perspective, J Am Acad Psychiatry Law, Mar 2002; 30: 112 - 119
- S Lee and A Kleinman, Psychiatry in its political and professional contexts: a response to Robin Munro, J Am Acad Psychiatry Law, Mar 2002; 30: 120 - 125
- SY Lu and VB Galli, Psychiatric abuse of Falun Gong practitioners in China, J Am Acad Psychiatry Law, Mar 2002; 30: 126 - 130
- R van Voren, Comparing Soviet and Chinese political psychiatry, J Am Acad Psychiatry Law, Mar 2002; 30: 131 - 135
- RJ Bonnie, Political abuse of psychiatry in the Soviet Union and in China: complexities and controversies, J Am Acad Psychiatry Law, Mar 2002; 30: 136 - 144
- J Birley, Political abuse of psychiatry in the Soviet Union and China: a rough guide for bystanders, J Am Acad Psychiatry Law, Mar 2002; 30: 145 - 147
Munro's response to his critics:
- R Munro, On the psychiatric abuse of Falun Gong and other dissenters in China: a reply to Stone, Hickling, Kleinman, and Lee, J Am Acad Psychiatry Law, Jun 2002; 30: 266 - 274
Finally, here is the blurb on the publisher's Web site provided by Prof. Andrew Nathan:
This is a pathbreaking work in China studies, a chilling account of psychiatric abuse of political dissidents dating back to the early days of the Chinese regime and extending to the present. Munro's remarkable research brings to light the sufferings of thousands of previously unsuspected victims, some detailed in heart-breaking case studies.
Far from being an obscure corner of the Chinese system, the gulag of psychiatric abuse proves to be diagnostic of fundamental flaws in Chinese-style rule of law and state-dominated medicine. Munro's earlier research sparked an international campaign to seek improvements. This new, full account of his findings will stand as a classic of human rights research while it deepens our understanding of the Chinese legal and political system.