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Jewish World Review March 20, 2001 / 25 Adar, 5761

Nat Hentoff

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Torturers as trading partners -- BOTH George W. Bush and his predecessor firmly supported permanent normal trade relations with China, and Congress agreed. With goods flowing in and out, China's repression of its citizens who advocate democracy would lessen. So the theory went. But, according to the Bush State Department's annual report last month on international human rights, conditions have worsened significantly for religious organizations and others who believe in freedom.

There is only one labor union in China, and anyone who tries to organize an independent union winds up in a "reeducation camp." Zhou Guoqiang, a lawyer, tried to distribute T-shirts bearing the Communist slogan "Labor Is Sacred," and wound up in the Shuanghe Labor Reeducation Camp, appropriately (for those who remember Stalin) near the Russian border.

His reeducation, as he told Erik Eckholm of The New York Times, meant "(y)ou'd be locked up in a small cell and struck with electric prods or beaten, and afterward you'd have to write a self-criticism saying that you'd been reeducated."

In the spring issue of Columbia University's Journal of Asian Law, Robin Munro, the former director of Human Rights Watch's Hong Kong office, confirms, with abundant detail, that dissidents are locked up in psychiatric hospitals and are subject to a savage "misuse of psychiatry for politically repressive purposes." The practice "resembles in all key respects that of the former Soviet Union." They are subject to electroshock "therapy," drugged, isolated and diagnosed as stricken with "paranoid psychosis" and sometimes "political monomania."

For example, Wang Wanxing was arrested in 1992 for displaying a pro-democracy banner in Tiananmen Square. Chinese psychiatrists, aware of what the government expected of them, promptly diagnosed him as "a paranoid psychotic" suffering from "political monomania." For the next seven years he was "treated" at a police hospital for the criminally insane.

The World Psychological Association will meet next year. A group of European and American doctors are lobbying national psychiatric associations around the world to consider censuring or suspending China, The New York Times reports. What will American psychiatric organizations do?

In a front-page Washington Times report, David R. Sands noted that a new Amnesty International report had found that "torture is committed in the full range of state institutions, from police stations to 'reeducation through labor camps,' to people's homes and workplaces."

Titled "Torture: A Growing Scourge in China -- Time for Action," the report documents that "a growing range of officials are perpetrating torture: tax collectors, judges, prosecutors, court clerks, family planning officers, village and party leaders, and security officials. ... Victims or observers who expose the torture are themselves targeted for reprisals."

The report also mentions that "Pro-democracy and labor rights advocate Zhang Lin, at a Reeducation Through Labor camp since November, 1998, required to work 14 hours a day while in poor health, beaten whenever he resisted or argued with guards about it ... was tortured six times, as a result of which he twice attempted suicide.

"He was beaten by other inmates who, acting on orders from the guards, had stripped and dragged him on the ground for long distances, and forced his head under water until he submitted to the guards. There has been no indication that his complaints have been investigated or that measures have been taken to protect him against further ill-treatment during the remainder of his 3-year term."

Perhaps President Bush, Secretary of State Colin Powell and the members of Congress who voted for permanent normal trade relations with China might consider sending Zhang Lin a get-well card, along with their assurances that, in time, the spirit of the free market will lead to an official abandonment of torture and the horrors of forced psychiatric treatment of citizens afflicted with "political monomania."

The international community, including the United States, celebrated the Olympics in Hitler's Germany with the Fuhrer in attendance. If China succeeds in becoming the host of the 2008 Olympics, will America send its athletes? If we do, will any of these athletes refuse to compete on the grounds of conscience -- and humanity?

JWR contributor Nat Hentoff is a First Amendment authority and author of numerous books. Send your comments to him by clicking here.


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