The Viewpoints article in the February 4 issue by Dr. Ahmed Okasha,
president of the World Psychiatric Association (WPA), titled "WPA
Continues to Pursue Concerns About Chinese Psychiatric Abuses," does not
tell the whole story.
First, Dr. Okasha writes that the Soviet psychiatric association, the
All-Union Society of Psychiatrists and Neuropathologists, resigned from the
WPA and was not expelled. The truth is that the WPA adopted such a
pusillanimous approach to blatant Soviet abuse that it took many years before
it was forced, against its will, to act against the Soviet association.
Eventually, however, it became so clear to the USSR that the All-Union Society
would be expelled at the Vienna Congress (in 1983) that it resigned shortly
before the congress convened. In other words, the association jumped before it
Second, Dr. Okasha writes that the "improvement" in the USSR
was due to regime change. In fact, before Boris Yeltsin dissolved the USSR,
political abuse of psychiatry had ceased—it had stopped under Mikhail
Gorbachev, general secretary of the Communist Party and president of the USSR.
Since then there have been isolated, but still too many, cases of psychiatric
abuse, but they have occurred sporadically at a local level and not as part of
a systematic campaign of political abuse, such as what appears to be going on
We, the Geneva Initiative on Psychiatry, and many others have pointed out
to the WPA that the vast majority of Chinese psychiatrists are good, ethical
colleagues who almost certainly abhor political abuse and do not practice it.
The point is that political abuse goes on at a governmental level, that is,
through the security organs, just as Soviet abuse was essentially dictated by
the MVD and KGB. Expulsion of the Chinese Psychiatric Society from the WPA
would be one very significant way to make the Chinese government appreciate
its pariah status in world psychiatry.
Finally, I believe that it is a misuse of terminology to continue to refer
to the abuse of psychiatry in China as a "Falun Gong problem." A
very large number, perhaps even the majority, of the victims of political
abuse in China belong to the Falun Gong, but not all of them. Dissidents of
all types, whistleblowers, trade unionists, and many others have found
themselves locked up in psychiatric hospitals, or Ankangs (the notorious
equivalent of the equally notorious Soviet "special