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China: Around The Nation

Chinese man with mental health problems freed after 17 years spent shackled in a shed

56-year-old from poor family regains his freedom after hospital offers to treat him free of charge

PUBLISHED : Friday, 01 September, 2017, 1:14pm
UPDATED : Friday, 01 September, 2017, 1:53pm

A Chinese man with mental health problems who was kept shackled in a shed for 17 years was given his freedom this week when a local hospital offered to treat him free of charge.

Xu Guofa, 56, had been held captive at his family home in Fengshun county, southern China’s Guangdong province, since 2000, when his elder brother agreed to chain him up in response to appeals from the local community, China Youth Daily reported on Thursday.

People felt threatened by Xu because his mental health problems made him prone to violent rages, the report said, adding that he frequently argued with his neighbours and on several occasions tried to set fire to their properties.

His family responded by chaining his feet and keeping him locked up in the shed. He was given his meals in plastic bags to stop him smashing the crockery, the report said.

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“His condition worsens in bad weather,” his 61-year-old brother Xu Guojun was quoted as saying, adding that Xu first showed signs of mental illness in 1991, after returning home from the city of Zhuhai, where he had been working.

“I thought about sending him to hospital for treatment, but the cost would have been far beyond what we could afford,” he said.

Xu Guojun is a bachelor who makes about 2,000 yuan (US$300) a month doing casual work, the report said.

After hearing about the family’s and Xu’s plight, Rongjun Hospital said it would assess his condition and treat him free of charge.

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“We will give him a full check-up first, before coming up with a rehabilitation plan,” Zheng Qingshui, the head of the hospital, said.

The first step in the rehabilitation process was taken on Tuesday, when the heavy, rusty chains that had bound Xu’s ankles for 17 years were removed.