China: Psychiatry with Chinese characteristics

Peking University Law Professor specialized in forensics, Sun Dongdong, told China News Weekly on March 23 that 99% of China's petitioners (zh) are mentally ill and that he support for forced hospitalization of them.

Update (April 8, 2009 @ 8:00): Internet monitor center issued a notice to webmasters of portals and forums instructing them to delete action call but not general comments and posts (via twitpic):


Translation of the memo:

On 23 of March, Peking University Professor, expert on Psychiatry Sun dongdong commented in China News Weekly interview that “99% expert petitioners has mental problem”. The comment has immediately become a hot topic.

All information and posts that incite, organize, plan and network for action in related to “Sun Dongdong's comments” should be deleted. No special measure for general comments and news. Don't manage and deal with non-action call information. Remember this! Please sign to receive this.

Another update (April 8, 2009 @ 7:30): There is an e-mail calling for joint signature to urge the Ministry of Health to disqualify Sun's expert status.

Who is mentally sick?

Update (April 8, 2009 @ 6:30) : Last weekend, some visit petitioners in Beijing, gathered outside the West Gate of Peking University to show their discontent. Police was there to maintain order, there were no conflict. So who is mentally sick? The petitioners made their point with their action (picture via


Psychiatry with Chinese characteristics?

Here are some of Sun's words in the article pick up by Gen Wen from China News Weekly:




Among those expert petitioners, I am here to say responsibly that at least 99%, if not 100%, has mental problem — all have paranoid personality disorder!

In order to actualize a paranoia, they can give up their family and pay visit petition at all cost. You can do the investigation on the paranoid petitioners, the problem that they put forward had been solved, there aren't any problem at all.

To send them to hospital is the greatest protection (on their human rights).

The blogger pointed out that Sun's comment is closed to fascism. His judgment was shared by many netizens and Sun was forced issued an apology (zh) via on April 6:

Some of the content [of what I said in the magazine] was inappropriate, and brought forth controversy and misunderstandings. I deeply regret this. If some of the content hurt some people’s feelings, then I wish to extend my deepest apologies. I also truly hope that they [petitioners] would be able to go through legal channels to solve their issues.

China Digital times’ translation

Explain your position please!

However, not so many people buy his apology as he didn't further explain his words. Beifeng posted an open letter to Sun from Weng Yenhai from Aizhixing Institute of Health Education in Beijing:



1. Is this a matter of expression? If you think it is an expression issue, can you elaborate on your position regarding the relation between petitioner and mental problem? What is your stand towards petitioners, and expert petitioners? Who are suffered from paranoia? What is the appropriate way for treating petitioners? And how to treat those with mental problem? If you made a statement criticizing the abuse of Psychiatry for abusing the petitioners, I will then forgive you.

2. Have people misunderstood you? Where exactly they have misinterpreted you?
Moreover, people are concerned about your position and opinion as a expert in legislation work regarding Psychiatry. So please spell it out. I have copied this letter to two email group.

Animal Professor

In ifeng's discussion thread, there are more than 9884 comments on Sun Dongdong's incident, here are some of the top comments:

From Chongqin city posted on April 3 with 5635 supporters:


Sun Dongdong must have mental problem, or else he couldn't have said such senseless, heartless, and groundless thing?!!! This is shameless.

From Shandong posted on April 3 with 2705 supporters:


Don't bullshit, 99% of the visit petitioners has suffered from unresolved injustice. This is a dark and chaotic society, especially in the rural villages, the issue of justice is critical. Peasants are so poor while government officials are so corrupted. Their accounting is very chaotic and they sell out peasants’ land without any accountability. If such corruption continues, Chinese people won't have hope…

From China posted on April 3 with 1760 supporters:


My God!!! This is Peking University’ animal professor!!!

From Shenzhen posted on April 3 with 1131 supporters:


Sun Dongdong has treated too many mentally ill patients, now he becomes one of them. The wealth disparity problem is getting more serious. In addition, some governmental bodies are corrupted without accountability. Social injustice is very serious especially among grassroots. To force petitioners into mental hospital without family members’ approval is illegal.

From Jiansu posted on April 3 with 994 supporters:

“公安部信访办:绝大多数上访者诉求是有道理的”(2009年03月12日 14:16中国青年报)

This is terrifying that China has such kind of professor.
According to China Youth daily, 12 of March, 2009. The Police Petition Bureau said that most of the petitioners have their reason in their demand.

From Liaoling posted on April 3 with 948 supporters:


I suggest to first put this dog ass Sun Dongdong in mental hospital and beat him up for three days.

Sun on Melamine: Don't create trouble

Actually this is not the first time that Sun Dongdong stood out to defend government policy. During the Melamine poisonous milk incident, he said the government had no flaw in dealing with the problem and criticized media and netizens for blaming the government (via Tianya Sept 2008):


It is normal that people concern about the issue. However, our society needs people with responsibility, sometimes media and netizens are too extreme. All they think about is compensation. I think we need to identify the reason first. Moreover, there is no need to find trouble for government department. The more troubles and questions you posted would probably make it more difficult for getting the issue solved.

There were 8255 comments in the post and a majority of was criticizing Sun.


  • post updated:
    1. picture of petitioners outside beida
    2. email call for joint signature to disqualify Sun’s expert status.

  • Although I disagree with Sun’s idea, I don’t feel good about the comment thread on ifeng. Most comments there are not rational and just using angry words. I think if the netizens want to be against Sun, they have to behave mannered so as to counter Sun’s behavior.

    So I here translate some interesting comments that contains interesting information. (fron ifeng, too) They pointed out the irony of political correctness in this 21st century China.

    In fact, Sun’s words was not totally wrong, despite exaggeration. I think it’s not 99%, but absolutely more than a half. I am a field worker, and I contacted with many petitioners. Some of them petitioned because their legitimate request was not satisfied. We don’t blame them. Others of them petitioned for the unsatisfied requests, but went on petitioning even though the request had got solution, just because they didn’t want to solve it according to existing policy and institutions. They wanted to do the way as they saying “Squeaky wheel gets the oil.” Some of them didn’t have legitimate issues, but they just petitioned; they liked to go to Beijin. The existing legal system can do anyting to these people. These are mentally problematic. I’ve met one, who always said he was controlled by a remote controller that destroyed his sexual potency. He alleged this guy in his village today, but alleged another guy in another day. On every big day, he brought a banner saying “Injustice” and a pack to Beijin, opening it right before the State Bureau for Letters and Calls. A big proportion of the petitioners are the two latter kinds. I’m definately not discriminating minority groups. My parents living in village with harsh consition supported me studying in college. I am offspring of peasants, and I never disregard peasants. But I think we need to be reasonable.

    Sun’s IQ was not qualified as an professor, I can just see he as the only child who dares to say the king is naked.
    Those senior petitioners influenced many officers, wasted nation’s momentary and human resources. Atmosphere in politics and in society is not as before!
    But is this speakable?

    Please don’t be outraged! Should be reasonable! Although Prof Sun was far beyond, he said what he dares to say. There are professional petitioners, and they make a living from petition. Even some make fortune from it; I was impressed. It’s better to obey the law, comprehensive laws! Petition cannot replace the laws!!!!!

    But some comment vividly expressed the hopelessness of an ordinary citizen in China and the necessary evil of the petition system in the 21st century China, even though monsters are hiding in system:

    有屁用,在地方的信访都是无用功,形式主义,官官相护,去年我母亲被一家乡镇—-北流市陵城卫生院无医生执业证的医生梁淋医死,该院院长麦世杰串通北流市卫生局副局长郑建国,事后帮这个无良医生补办医生执业证,把时间提前到我母亲出事前,逃避无证行医的法律责任,我们到处上访,到了北流市政府,纪委, 玉林市卫生局,广西区卫生厅,官官相护,包庇,至今这些畜生还在逍遥法外,让我们感到绝望和愤怒.在此求助各位有正义感的网友支持指点一条路子,如能得到你的帮助和支持我们全家将感激万分.
    It never works. The local petition system doesn’t work, and is formalism, and officials cover one another. Last year, my mother was killed by the medical error of a doctor without license. The president of the hospital then conspired with the vice-head of local bureau of health to offer a license afterward. And the issue date was altered to in prior of my mother’s death, so as to escape the legal responsibility. We petitioned everywhere: to the city hall at different levels, to the regional health department, but they covered one another. They are still free from the law so far. This makes us despair. I ask for just netizen to point me a way. My family will be so gratitude to have your help and support.

  • Peter Wei

    Wow Trust, you are seeking justice for the poor professor instead of for 99% of the petitioners. You think you are reasonable and say only over 50% has a mental illness. .. Did you ever wonder why these people are so upset? To me it seems like you lost your rationality…

  • Thanks for the translation. When i translated from i-feng, i picked the most popular responses on top. Since there are more than 9000, it is very difficult to go through all. so your help is appreciated.

    The open letter demanding the health ministry to cancel Sun’s professional status is quite well articulated through. You can also take a look :)

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