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Page last updated at 13:26 GMT, Monday, 8 December 2008

Petitioners in China 'abducted'

By Quentin Sommerville
BBC News, Beijing

map of China

The authorities in the eastern Chinese city of Xintai have been abducting citizens who make complaints, according to a state newspaper.

These people are held in mental hospitals until they withdraw their complaints, the Beijing News reports.

An investigation found that at least 18 people had been detained in this way, after trying to take complaints about local officials to higher authorities.

Some of those held were reportedly forced to take powerful drugs.

Land dispute

Sun Fawu was held for 20 days in a psychiatric hospital and force-fed drugs, after he complained about ruined farmland near his village, according to the newspaper.

He was only released after he promised not to complain again.

Another man was reportedly sent by police to the Xintai Mental Hospital two years ago, after he became involved in a land dispute, and is still being held there.

In total, as many as 18 people have been held by the hospital, according to the Beijing News.

Local officials in China often try to stop people taking complaints about their treatment to provincial capitals or Beijing.

Human rights groups have long accused China of forcing dissidents into psychiatric hospitals.

Some are imprisoned for years, without ever facing formal charges.



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