Human Rights groups welcome new Chinese mental health law
Mental health law to protect the rights of the mentally ill has been adopted for the first time in Chinese history.
Human rights groups around the world have welcomed the new law but they have also expressed concerns about it not going far enough. But most agree that having a law that protects significant part of the 100 million mentally ill people in China is better than having no law at all.
Under the new legislation, individuals and institutions would have a statutory responsibility to protect the privacy of mentally ill patients including names, addresses as well as employment information, official Chinese news agency Xinhua has reported.
The law also aims to increase the number of medical facilities and doctors to treat mentally ill patients. But more significantly, this new law prohibits compulsory mental health treatment and “hospitalization” without an individual’s consent unless they pose a clear threat to themselves or others.
This is a significant step – as China’s Communist Party has incarcerated many dissidents and critics in mental health institutions arguing those who oppose its views are mentally ill. This law aims to stop that practice.
"The most important thing that this law does is it will allow civil society to step in to monitor and press for improvement in the management of mental health in China, including ... pushing for greater transparency and progressive curtailment of police rights." Nicholas Bequelin, a researcher at Human Rights Watch told Reuters.
However, at the same time he expressed concerns that the new law does not cover police run psychiatric facilities. The new law still allows police to run their own facilities for “trouble makers” which Bequelin sees as a major concern.
“Allowing public security officials to hold control will do little to change the problem if there is no added system of checks and balances,” he said.
It is widely expected that the Chinese Government under new leadership would unveil funding plans to support the expansion of mental health services during the next parliamentary session.