Court Rules Hospital Violated Gay Man’s Liberty

A gay man in Henan province has been awarded 5,000 yuan (U.S.$735) in compensation from a local psychiatric hospital where he was locked up for 19 days and forced to take pills and injections as therapy for his homosexuality. In its decision on June 26, the Yicheng District People’s Court in the city of Zhumadian ruled that the Zhumadian Psychiatric Hospital had violated the personal liberty of the 38-year-old man, surnamed Yu, because it held him against his will without proper justification.

Yu, 38, who is married, was identified only by his surname to protect his teenage son, said his lawyer, Huang Rui.

In October 2015, his wife and relatives forced him into the psychiatric hospital because of a “sexual preference disorder.”

Yu was given pills and injections during the 19 days he was held at the government-run facility, according to court documents. He was released on October 27, 2015, and only because police intervened at the request of Yu’s boyfriend, Yu’s lawyer said.

Yu said in earlier media interviews that during his first day at the hospital, contract workers humiliated him by ridiculing him for being gay before forcing him to remove his clothing to check whether he was a man or a woman.

“Because of this mistreatment, I have since suffered from nightmares and often wake up in the middle of the night,” Yu told reporters.

The hospital denied the allegations.

Under China’s Mental Health Law, which took effect in May 2013, it is illegal to force people into psychiatric treatment unless they have harmed—or threatened to harm—themselves or others.

The hospital had argued in court that it did nothing wrong by admitting Yu because he had shown signs of anxiety and a tendency to harm himself.

The district court ruled that although Yu showed signs of anxiety, he posed no threat to either himself or anyone else, so the hospital had violated his rights. Along with the compensation, the court also ordered the hospital to publicly apologize to Yu.

However, the court did not weigh in on the legality of conversion therapy, a service that purports to “cure” patients of their homosexuality. In the past, conversion therapies in China have used hypnosis and electro-convulsive therapy as treatment methods.

The court’s decision heartened gay rights advocates in China.

The verdict serves as a wake-up call to families of gay people and the general public about illegal conversion treatments at mental hospitals and counseling facilities in China, said Peng Yanhui from LGBT Rights Advocacy China.

Activists estimate there are 70 million homosexuals in China.

Homosexuality was removed from a list of mental illnesses in an updated diagnostic manual released by the government-backed Chinese Psychiatric Association in 2011.

However, many gay people in China are pressured into conversion therapy due to the stigma associated with homosexuality, which has given rise to many mental hospitals and counseling services offering bogus conversion treatment, Peng said.

In December 2014, the Haidian district court in Beijing ordered a private facility offering counseling services in the southwestern municipality of Chongqing to pay 3,500 yuan in compensation to a gay youth in what is believed to be the first court case involving conversion therapy in China.

A 2014 mental health survey of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) groups showed that nearly 10 percent of the 1,653 people polled have either sought or considered conversion therapy for the sake of their families or in the hope of “living a normal life.”

The ruling in favor of the gay man should serve as a catalyst for public health authorities to come up with regulations to protect LGBT groups, Peng said.