|Members of Holy Love Fellowship Church on their way to visit
Zhang Wenhe in early 2014, shortly before he was confined to
a mental institution. (Photo: China Aid)
Reported and written in Chinese by Qiao Nong. Translated by Carolyn Song. Edited in English by Ava Collins.
(Beijing—Jan. 29, 2016) Beijing authorities placed a house church member under strict watch in his home after his November-release from a 20-month confinement in a mental hospital, during which time he was forcibly dosed with psychiatric medication.
On Jan. 24, 2014, authorities placed 15 members of Holy Love Fellowship Church, a house church in Beijing, into criminal custody after they were discovered planning to meet in the home of one member: Zhang Wenhe. On Mar. 4, 2014, Zhang Wenhe was transferred to Changping Mental Healthcare Center where he spent 20 months until his son, Zhang Chi, was finally able to convince authorities to release him in November 2015.
“On Nov. 18, after a three-week negotiation with police, I brought him out of Changping Mental Healthcare Center, by reasoning that he needed to take care of my mother. I also promised that if the public security bureau let my father out, he wouldn’t live in one place. Under these terms, they agreed to let him go,” Zhang Chi told China Aid’s reporter.
Zhang Wenhe said hospital staff forcibly administered psychotropic medication of some kind to him while he was confined in the mental hospital. The systematic symptoms of withdrawal since his release from confinement in November have been very difficult to endure, he said.
“You must take the medicine,” Zhang Wenhe said. “Every time you enter a mental institution, you must take it. You cannot refuse. If you don’t take it, you will be forced to take it through a nasogastric tube. After Nov. 18, I was put in a recovery period. When I was not forced to take medicine, the trouble came. I could not sleep and felt dizzy, like some kind of magic spell.”
After the return home, Zhang Chi said that they were still “under a lot of pressure” from authorities and Zhang Wenhe was not allowed to leave the house.
Zhang Wenhe told China Aid that this was the fourth time he has been forced into psychiatric care. He also said that authorities typically placed him under strict watch after his releases and forbade him from leaving home.
Zhang Wenhe was first sent to an institution for 15 months after attempting to visit Yuan Weijing, the wife of human rights lawyer Chen Guangcheng, while Chen was in prison. Yuan was living in Tongzhou with the activist Hu Jia at the time.
Then, in September 2007, after Hu was imprisoned, Zhang Wenhe attempted to visit Hu’s wife, Zeng Jinyan, who is also a human rights activist. Police detained Zhang Wenhe as he reached the door and confined him to an institution for another 17 months.
After his release on Feb. 24, 2009, Zhang Wenhe stated he was under police guard in his home, with sentries posted at his door. In protest, he went on hunger strike until the morning of March 30, when he suffered a heart attack. The guards had locked the door from the outside and refused to open it, even turning away the ambulance that responded to Zhang’s emergency call. Finally, Zheng Wenhe lit a piece of wood on fire, and, after the fire department put the fire out, he was taken to the Changping Mental Healthcare Center again and confined for another 20 months.
Zhang Chi was also detained for three months in a psychiatric hospital on one occasion.
Zhang Wenhe said authorities never told him the official reason for his arrest or confinements, and he has never received any written documents. “There is no written record,” he said. “It’s very hard to find proof, even though I want to sue them.” Currently the family of four relies on his retirement allowance of 2,000 Yuan (U.S. $300) per month and his wife’s pension of 4,000 Yuan (U.S. $600) per month.
China Aid exposes cases of abuse, such as those experienced by Zhang Wenhe, in order to promote religious freedom and rule of law in China.