In the first ruling of its kind in China, a Beijing court said on Friday that a psychiatric counseling center was in the wrong when it attempted to cure a 30-year-old man of homosexuality with a mix of hypnosis and electric shocks.
Gay rights activists have said they hoped the lawsuit will help put an end to the practice of “gay conversion” therapy in the country.
“We’re incredibly happy,” said Yang Teng, the plaintiff in the case. Mr. Yang earlier told China Real Time (which previously quoted him using the pseudonym Xiao Zhen) that staff at a clinic in the southwestern city of Chongqing told him they could cure his homosexuality, then put him in a state of light hypnosis and shocked him with electrodes every time he thought of gay sex.
“In her decision, the judge said that homosexuality is not a disease, therefore the clinic had no basis to undertake treatment,” he said.
The decision by the Haidian District Court in northern Beijing ends weeks of tension after the court missed a deadline to issue a ruling in the case. The presiding judge, Wang Chenghong, couldn’t be reached on Friday. The Beijing High People’s Court, which is responsible for handling questions from foreign media, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Mr. Yang said the court had ordered the clinic, Chongqing Jinyu Piaoxiang, to pay him 3,500 yuan ($563) in compensation. It also required the clinic to post an apology for offering the treatment on the front page of its website for 48 hours and ordered an investigation whether the clinic’s license was valid.
Jiang Kaicheng, the clinic’s director, couldn’t be reached. Mr. Jiang’s son, Jiang Fan, said he hadn’t been notified of the ruling and had no comment.
Homosexuality was removed from China’s official list of mental disorders in 2001, but psychiatric counseling centers throughout the country still offer to treat it as if it were a disease, gay rights activists say. While many people in China are tolerant of or indifferent to homosexuality in the abstract, gay people often face pressure from family members to get married and have children.
Mr. Yang said his family urged him to go to Jinyu Piaoxiang after it turned up in multiple online searches about treating homosexuality.
Search engine Baidu was also named in the suit. The judge ruled the company didn’t have to pay compensation but was urged to be mindful of running advertisements for dubious therapeutic services in the future, according to Mr. Yan.
“Baidu respects the court’s decision,” said Kaiser Kuo, spokesman for the company. “We’re very glad to see justice served, and we share the opinion that unqualified therapy must be very vigilantly regulated. We hope Yang Teng will find some comfort in the court’s ruling.”
Advertisements for gay conversion therapy appear to have been removed from Baidu search results.
Mr. Yang said he wasn’t bothered by the judge’s ruling on Baidu. “We accomplished our goal, which was to establish that gay conversion is not a legitimate form of therapy,” he said, adding that he plans to join with activists in using the decision to press other clinics to stop offering the service.
– Josh Chin, with contributions from Olivia Geng. Follow Josh on Twitter @joshchin.
China bans electric shock therapy and beatings to treat its web-addicted youth
The Global Times on Monday said a centre in the eastern Shandong province had used electrical stimulation to “treat” more than 6,000 Internet addicts – “mostly teenagers” – since 2006.
The new laws against using “abuse or coercion” to wean the country’s youth from the web are contained in draft regulations which media said will “protect minors’ rights in cyberspace”.
Other measures include banning online gaming companies from providing services for young people between midnight and 8am.
“Any organisation or individual is banned from adopting illegal measures, such as abuse or coercion (which could) impair juveniles’ mental health and legitimate rights and interests,” said the draft regulations, which were posted on an official Chinese government website.
The state-run Global Times newspaper cited an expert saying the new measures would prohibit the use of electric shock therapy.
The Chinese health ministry previously asked all hospitals to stop “electrical stimulation” for internet addiction, local media reported in 2009.
China has more than 710 million Internet users, and around 23 percent are under 19, according to Government figures released last summer. Some estimates suggest that 10 percent of Chinese youth could be addicted to the web.
Internet bootcamps came under the spotlight in China after a 15-year-old boy died less than 24 hours after arriving at one facility in 2009. He was allegedly beaten to death.
They were at the centre of controversy again in September last year when multiple reports said a teenage girl tied her mother to a chair and starved her to death in revenge for sending her to a camp.
The centres are widely reported to use violence, abuse, and military-style methods. There are said to be up to 250 such centres in China, all of which operate in legal grey areas.
The new regulations have been released for consultation until February 6.
Additional reporting by Christine Wei
Electroshock Therapy for Internet Addicts? China Vows to End It
HONG KONG — At the Addiction Treatment Center in eastern China, more than 6,000 internet addicts — most of them teenagers — not only had their web access taken away, they were also treated with electroshock therapy.
The center, in Shandong Province, made headlines in September after one of its patients killed her mother in retribution for abuse she had purportedly suffered at the camp during a forced detox regimen.
Now China is trying to regulate camps like the one in Shandong, which have become a last resort for parents exasperated by their child’s habit of playing online games for hours on end.
The government has drafted a law that would crack down on the camps’ worst excesses, including electroshock and other “physical punishments.” Medical specialists welcomed the law, announced this week in China’s state-controlled news media, as an initial step toward curbing scandals in the industry.