For 13 years, Beijing dissident Wang Wanxing was locked up in a brutal psychiatric hospital. Now exiled to Germany, he tells Luke Harding how China is using a secret network of mental institutions to punish political prisoners
It was as a small boy growing up in communist China that Wang Wanxing first had his doubts about the system. At school his teacher, Mr Li, extolled the virtues of Chairman Mao. Privately, however, Wang disliked Mao and disagreed with his criticism of Khrushchev. While he was at a middle school in Beijing, his antipathy grew when his grandmother starved to death in one of China’s rural famines. It was from these early beginnings that Wang eventually became one of China’s most famous dissidents – and shed rare light on one of the darkest aspects of the present regime: its systematic misuse of mental hospitals for political prisoners.