A court in central China has ordered a mental institution to pay 5000 RMB (HK$5,740) in compensation, and publish a public apology in local newspapers, after a gay man was forced to undergo so-called conversion therapy.

Peng Yanhui, the director of the NGO LGBT Rights Advocacy China, told financial news magazine Caixin that it was the first victory in forced conversion therapy cases.

The court found that the hospital violated the mental health care law, which stipulates that citizens must not undergo treatment against their will unless they are in danger of hurting themselves or others, according to a verdict provided to Sohu by the plaintiff, surnamed Yu.

gay conversion therapy
Photo: Weibo/@同志之声.

Its verdict made no comment on the validity of gay conversion therapy or acknowledge Yu’s sexual orientation, but said that the hospital infringed on his right to personal freedom.

The man originally asked the hospital for compensation of RMB 10,000 (HK$11,626) and an apology for infringing on his right to personal freedom. The court ordered that the institution pay him half of his demand.

‘Sexual preference disorder’

The 38-year-old was taken to the mental institution in Zhumadian, Henan, in October 2015 by his wife and family members against his will. He was diagnosed with “sexual preference disorder,” according to the court document.

“I tried to explain that I didn’t have a mental illness and asked to leave the hospital, but I was refused,” he previously told The Paper.

Yu was forced to take medicine and receive injections, and was only released 19 days later, after his boyfriend – with the help of NGO director Peng – called the police.

The hospital denied any wrongdoing in court, saying that Yu had an anxiety disorder, showed an inclination to self-harm, and was brought to the hospital by his wife and brother. They argued that he had failed to provide documentation to show that he was not mentally ill.

Yu’s lawyer told Sohu that he was very satisfied with the verdict. “For the LGBT community, they can have more confidence in [the courts’] ability to uphold their rights… for health institutions, after an experience losing a lawsuit, they will curb their actions of forcibly treating homosexuals.”

peng yanhui
Peng Yanhui seen in a 2014 photo. Photo: Weibo/LGBT Rights Advocacy China.

China’s psychiatric association dropped homosexuality from its list of disorders in 2001, but LGBT Rights Advocacy China says that many hospitals and clinics still issue corrective treatment to homosexuals.

The NGO’s director Peng told Caixin that there is still a large market for conversion therapy, partially because “there are currently no laws regulating hospitals’ and clinics’ treatment of homosexuals.”

Peng won a landmark case in 2014 against a private conversion clinic for treating him with electroshock therapy, in which a Beijing court said that homosexuality was not an illness and that the clinic was not qualified to provide such treatments.

He expressed hope that the court’s ruling on Yu’s case can help push the government’s health departments into creating policies banning forcible conversion therapy for homosexuals.

China last year banned the depiction of gay people on television, including same-sex relationships as an example of “abnormal sexual relationships and behaviour” to be prohibited along with sexual violence and incest. Last week, regulators extended the ban to online videos.

Catherine is a Canadian journalist and photographer who lived in Beijing for almost two years, working in TV and online media. Aside from Hong Kong and mainland affairs, she is also interested in urban spaces, art and feminism. She holds a BA in Literature and Art History from the University of British Columbia.