A Cuckoo’s Nest that no one can fly over – Chinese petitioner locked up again 8 days after escape
Xu Wu, once an employee of a steel company in Wuhan, capital city of central Hubei province, had been petitioning in Beijing trying and failing to get justice on a financial dispute between himself and his company was forcibly admitted to a mental hospital and mistreated for four years. Eight days after he sprung up from the lunatic asylum, Xu was seized by the police a thousand kilometers away from home and thrown back into the asylum without any logical explanation. (Read how a Chinese whistleblower had been wronged and detained in mental home for 14 years)
Xu Wu, 43 year old, is a Wuhan native. He worked as a firefighter for Wuhan Iron and Steel Company (WISCO) before 2004. Believing that he was a victim of unequal pay and constant arrears of wages, he brought WISCO to court. The company wanted to settle with him out of court and pay him 30,000 yuan ($3,600) as compensation, only to be refused by him, because he wanted to win the lawsuit and his dignity.
Xu Wu in front of a bullet train after his escape from the mental home
After his claims were dismissed by the court, he appealed to Wuhan and Beijing’s government organs. On a day in December, 2006, the moment he stepped out of Peking University after consulting a legal aid center, he was seized by police coming all the way from Wuhan and escorted back to the local public security office. The police convinced him that as long as he pleaded mental illness, he could be released. However, his compliance landed him in the mental hospital affiliated to WISCO. He managed to break free from the asylum on March 29 2007 by cutting the chain lock with a saw he found. He ran to as far as Beijing, but was sent back under escort soon.
Xu Wu claimed that he suffered substantial abuses in there, including electric shocks while being hung up. Remarkably he had never given up thought of extricating himself and had been doing exercises every day for a better shot at the escape. At midnight on April 19, he bent iron bars installed on a window in a vacant ward and wriggled out from between, a method he learned from a Jet Li movie he watched in the hospital.
Xu Wu borrowed money from a friend and got on a train to Guangzhou a thousand kilometers away from Wuhan, hoping to get out of harm’s way and be helped by the city which is renowned for having the country’s best respected and civic-minded news organizations. On April 22, he went through a professional mental health check up in a hospital in Guangzhou, and was diagnosed by Dr. Lin only to be ‘low self-esteem, suffering from mild depression.’ He approached TVS, a Guangzhou-based broadcaster, and was interviewed on April 27.
What happened next flabbergasts reasonable minds: after the interview, Xu got into a cab at the side entrance of the TV station – for fear that the front entrance would be ambushed by Xu’s captor – and was leaving for a local newspaper office. Right in front of a TV reporter’s eyes, their taxi cab was waylaid by a dozen men who claimed to be the police. They dragged Xu’s father out of the cab and then got into the cab to take Xu away. It is now known that Xu Wu is again mandatory hospitalized in the WISCO No. 2 hospital again. The whole kidnapping process has been captured by the surveillance camera at the intersection and many videos have since been posted on the internet.
A bunch of “policemen” without wearing uniform, displaying identification or paperwork, ambushed the taxi cab that Xu Wu took.
This incident has sent a big shockwave to the media circle in Guangzhou. The next day Southern Metropolis Daily sent its reporter Xu Jiguang (纪许光) to that hospital in Wuhan. But he got beaten up by security guards in the hospital, and was followed around by people he doesn’t know.
From the days Xu Wu fled and got captured until today, WISCO and the public security office that hunted down Xu Wu rejected all interview requests from the media. Xu Wu’s parents were also denied visits to their son still in the custody of the mental hospital.
Xu’s father and mother, both in their 70s, were denied visits to their son thrown back to the mental home. Desperate to see him, they stood outside the fence and cried to the third floor where Xu is supposedly detained, “My son Wu, come out and take a look at your mom.”
Zhang Anping, director of Retirement Office at a branch plant of WISCO, talked to reporters of Southern Metropolis Daily. He said even though he is also an employee of WISCO, being in different plant areas, he knew little about the inside story of Xu Wu’s case. However, he knew that Xu’s father went to WISCO multiple times to bring him out of the hospital home and always failed.
Zhang Anping thinks that the only condition for the release of Xu Wu is that he behaves and stops his petitioning effort. “The key issue is, even his father cannot guarantee that Xu Wu can give up on petitioning after he gets out. Nowadays stability trumps everything. As far as I know, the police have quite a lot of complaints about it. It is not good if he creates some mess again after he is let out,” he said.
Chen Zhonghua, a staff member at the mental hospital, said, “We complained that this person does not belong here long ago. But people higher above just won’t let him out. Every time he ran away, we are held accountable.”
Xu Wu’s parents at the gate of a mental hospital holding Xu’s I.D. photo.
In China, fabricating a mental health report is much easier than getting through the complex judiciary mill. Once one is identified as a person of unsound mind, his words are neither trusted nor legally effective. If mental hospitals are out of sight of public and judicial scrutiny, it can become a black jail where citizens are persecuted without being noticed.
This case is especially terrifying in the sense that the company in cahoots with the mental hospital are so powerful that the heavy hand of the local police came down on a patient at worst a thousand kilometers away from their due jurisdiction and has not relented a bit even after word about the incident spread nationwide quickly via the media and the web.
A net user commented, “If the matter is let to slide, it will leave people in constant nightmare.”
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