BEIJING, June 28 (AFP) - A People's Liberation Army (PLA) lieutenant general who refused to renounce his beliefs in the outlawed Falungong spiritual movement is being forced to take drugs every day at a mental hospital, a human rights group said Wednesday.
Zhao Xinli is one of more than 400 sane Falungong adherents who have been thrown into psychiatric hospitals in the government's continuing crack down on the group, the Hong Kong-based Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy said.
Zhao, who worked in a military supplies and equipment unit of the PLA, was arrested last month after joining a New Year's Eve protest on Tiananmen Square.
He was placed in a PLA mental hospital in Beijing and injected daily with a drug which harmed his nervous system, leaving him physically weak and muddled, the center said.
An official in the PLA department where Zhao worked confirmed he had been put there because of his affiliation with the Buddhist- based group.
Before the official could answer more questions, his colleague grabbed the phone and said: "We don't have any information to provide."
Five other PLA members and Falungong believers are also incarcerated at the hospital, the center quoted sources saying.
On Sunday, the rights group and a family member of another Falungong adherent reported the man died after being forced to take medication in an eastern Chinese mental hospital, becoming the 22nd known Falungong -related death due to maltreatment by police.
Su Gang, a computer engineer and college graduate, died on June 10 after receiving twice daily injections for seven days at the Changle Mental Hospital in Changle city, Shandong province, his father, Su Dean, had told by phone.
In the past year, practitioners and human rights groups have reported several cases of practitioners being locked in mental hospitals.
In the biggest case, more than 50 practitioners living in the countryside just outside Beijing were put in a hospital for about a month to keep them from protesting during the return of Macau to Chinese sovereignty on December 20.
The 400 practitioners placed in mental institutions nationwide include mid-ranking PLA officers, judges and police officers, the center said.
Frank Lu, director of the center, believes locking normal Falungong people into mental hospitals is a policy of the central government. The government has considered the movement the biggest threat to social and political stability since the 1989 Tiananmen Square student-led demonstrations.