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China May Want Dissident Committed

December 29, 1997

BEIJING (AP) _ Police are pressuring the family of a workers’ rights advocate to declare him mentally ill and force him into a hospital, a human rights group said Sunday.

In the past month, police in the eastern city of Bengbu have used threats to try to compel the wife and parents of Wang Hongxue to declare him a schizophrenic, New York-based Human Rights in China said in a news release.

Wang, 37, has written critical open letters to the government in the past year urging better protection for workers’ rights.

The failure of many state enterprises in China has left tens of millions of workers unemployed and struggling to make ends meet.

Wang and other activists throughout the country have been encouraging workers to organize. China has only a government-run labor union, and independent labor groups are not allowed.

Chinese officials have tried many times to force critics into hospitals for psychiatric treatment in an effort to destroy the dissident movement, the human rights group said.

Police usually use this measure on critics who are poorly educated and whose families are quick to submit to threats, it said.

Human Rights in China said Wang had never suffered any mental illness. It described him as a 37-year-old shift worker in a factory hospital who had never been active in appeals to the government until this year.

Update hourly