YOKOHAMA, Japan, Aug. 26 (UPI) -- The General Assembly of the World Psychiatric Association voted Monday to send an international delegation of psychiatrists to China to investigate that government's alleged abuses of psychiatric diagnoses in its ongoing suppression of the Falun Gong sect.
"We have to do this as soon as possible. Over 500 complaints of abuse in Falun Gong-related cases have been submitted to our Committee for the Review of Abuse of Psychiatry," Dr. Juan Jose Lopez-Ibor, outgoing president of the association and director of psychiatry at the World Health Organization's collaborative center at San Carlos Hospital in Madrid, told United Press International. "We need to create a protocol for our investigation within China, and we need the cooperation of the Chinese government in enacting what we regard as a professional and ethical imperative," he said.
"All of the members of the Chinese Society of Psychiatry at the assembly this evening gave their support to this action," Lopez-Ibor added.
The World Psychiatric Association is composed of 119 affiliated national associations. The group is gathering this week in Yokohama for its 12th triennial World Congress of Psychiatry, the first held in Asia.
The executive commitee of the organization will select the members of the investigative team.
"Up to this point, we have had good cooperatioin with the Chinese," Dr. Marion Kastrup, outgoing chairman of the Committee for the Review of Abuse of Psychiatry and director of the Institute for Trans-Cultural Psychiatry in Copenhagen, told UPI.
"On several occasions we have talked with representatives of the Chinese Society of Psychiatry about abuse claims, and they have, up until now, been very cooperative," Kastrup said. "But we need to get into the country and study these claims. We have to look at files and talk with persons. We must obtain entry to China and permission to study whatever we need to study."
Kastrup added the WPA already has held preliminary discussions with Chinese officials "in anticipation of the decision we made tonight -- and they have been positive talks."
The association leadership wants to send investigators into China no later than early next spring. They also want to finalize the report by May 2003, before the annual meetings of the American Psychiatric Association and the U.K. Royal College of Psychiatry, two organizations that have pressed for an investigation of alleged Chinese abuses.
As part of the Chinese government's campaign since 1999 to discredit Falun Gong, official Chinese media have promoted the idea that the movement's adherants are mentally disturbed and in need of psychiatric treatment. Hundreds of Falun Gong members have been hospitalized by force and medicated, according to reports from the movement itself and from human rights organizations.
"Now we need the 'green light' from the Chinese government to come in," said Lopez-Ibor.
"And the world will be watching," Kastrup added.