Chinese Law Prof Blog

Editor: Donald C. Clarke
George Washington University Law School

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

New report on abuse of psychiatry in China

The organization China Human Rights Defenders has just published a report on abuse of involuntary psychiatric commitment in China. Here's a summary from The Daily Beast.

As far as I know, the most recent full-scale treatment of this issue is Robin Munro's path-breaking China's Psychiatric Inquisition: Dissent, Psychiatry and the Law in Post-1949 China (London: Wildy, Simmonds and Hill, 2006). I have a blog post about it and the controversy his work engendered here. (Bottom line: Munro 1, critics 0.)

Involuntary commitment is an area desperately in need of legal standards. The abuses that occur now can't be blamed on authorities flouting or bending existing law. They don't need to bother; the existing legal regime pretty much gives them carte blanche to involuntarily commit anyone by just saying it's necessary.

Without some standards, I have an uneasy feeling that if current efforts to abolish re-education through labor in its current form succeed, we'll suddenly - through the operation of a kind of Law of Conservation of Police Discretion - see an increase in the number of supposedly crazy people needing commitment.

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