Iread the Psychiatric News article in the August 6 issue on the
China situation with interest and thought some additional background
information would be helpful to our many members having deep concerns about
Dr. Abe Halpern, an APA member and distinguished life fellow, supported by
the APA Commission on Global Psychiatry, now the APA Council on Global
Psychiatry, initiated to the World Psychiatric Association (WPA) the first of
many complaints from diverse sources around the world regarding the political
abuse of Falun Gong practitioners by psychiatrists in China.
Very early on in the subsequent investigation of these complaints, the
Standing Review Committee of the WPA carefully studied the works of Human
Rights Watch China advocate Robin Munro. He has written extensively on the
political abuse of psychiatry, with reference, among other issues, to forensic
psychiatry in China.
Dr. Alan Stone, in writings published in the forensic psychiatry
literature, disagreed with Munro, particularly on the matter of the systematic
political abuse of the Falun Gong by forensic psychiatrists in China, of which
there are, in fact, very few. The Standing Review Committee also carefully
studied Dr. Stone's writings.
During the nearly five years of the WPA investigation, which was conducted
with the cooperation of the Chinese Society of Psychiatry (CSP), the APA
Commission/Council on Global Psychiatry received regular reports from the WPA
and heard repeatedly from Falun Gong practitioners who are also APA members. I
personally kept Dr. Rodrigo Muñoz, chair of the council, and Dr. Darrel
Regier, executive director of the American Psychiatric Institute for Research
and Education, apprised of the progress of the investigation, which they were
monitoring for APA.
When negotiations had reached the point that the Chinese assented to
on-site independent verification by a task force of the WPA, the president of
the WPA, Professor Ahmed Okasha, requested that Dr. Alan Stone serve as one of
its members. He was selected because of his detailed study and knowledge of
the matter, because of his integrity, and because of his expertise as a
world-renowned professor of psychiatry and law.
I personally invited Dr. Stone to a meeting of the Standing Review
Committee of the WPA, which I chair and on which I have served throughout the
entire investigation, and he made major contributions to our deliberations.
After it became clear the Chinese had modified their stance on independent
verification, Dr. Stone made suggestions critical to the compromise ultimately
arrived at by the WPA and the CSP and was actively involved in the formulation
of the joint agreement. This agreement was hammered out after four years of
investigation and final negotiations at APA's annual meeting in New York
earlier this year. Dr. Stone correctly predicted that the Chinese would accept
this compromise in the face of my doubts.
This unprecedented agreement by the Chinese leaves the door open for using
past examples of inappropriate diagnosis and treatment, identified by the
Chinese, their critics, and the WPA, as a basis for educational approaches to
dealing with these problems. There is agreement between the CSP and WPA that
the WPA will conduct seminars and workshops on psychiatric diagnosis and
forensic and ethical practices, toward the end of improving the quality of
psychiatric patient care and preventing inappropriate psychiatric practices in