Villagers forcibly drugged, says newspaper Petitioners who complained to higher authorities about injustices have been forcibly detained in mental hospitals by authorities in the city of Xintai , Shandong province , a newspaper reported. Human rights lawyers and other petitioners said the practice was not uncommon. Sun Fawu , 57, a retired worker from Quangou township in Xintai, was abducted by the township's petition officials and taken to Xintai's mental hospital while on his way to petition in Beijing on October 19, The Beijing News reported. During more than 20 days in detention, Mr Sun said he was forcibly given drugs orally and via injections, and locked in a room with iron doors and bars on the window. 'My head was heavy like a hammer and my legs were weak,' Mr Sun told the newspaper. He said when he yelled to a doctor, telling him he was a petitioner and not mentally ill, he was told: 'I don't care if you are mentally ill or not. Your township government sent you so I will treat you like a mentally ill patient.' He was released only after he signed a document declaring he suffered from mental illness and promising not to petition again. Mr Sun had been repeatedly trying to petition higher authorities in Shandong and Beijing since 2001 demanding compensation for himself and other villagers because excessive mining had damaged homes and farmland in his village. It is common for petitioners who fail to have their grievances redressed by local authorities to try to have their cases heard at higher levels such as the State Bureau of Letters and Calls, the highest level of the official petition reception office, in Beijing. But such calls are often regarded as an embarrassment by local governments and petitioners are regularly intercepted by home officials and escorted home. In October, rights groups claimed some provinces had even set up 'black jails' in budget hotels in Beijing to imprison petitioners who had travelled to Beijing to have their grievances heard. In July last year, Mr Sun said he was 'escorted' to Quangou from a petition trip to Beijing and thrown in a mental hospital where he was detained for more than three months. Shi Hengsheng, an 84-year-old former public servant who was detained at the mental hospital in June 2006 after being escorted back from Beijing for a property dispute, told the newspaper there had been at least 18 petitioners kept in the hospital during the past two years. Mr Shi said petitioners detained in the hospital did not know when they had had their mental state evaluated and their family members were not notified about their detention. Wu Yuzhu , president of Xintai Mental Hospital told the newspaper that many patients at the hospital were petitioners and their fees were paid by township governments. He said some patients did not appear mentally ill, but 'we could not say anything as most times the township officials bring with them a mental state evaluation and accompanied by police officers'. Chen Jianfa , assistant to the Quangou township director, said they were under huge pressure because they could not handle the disputes of the petitioners and higher levels would challenge them when petitioners bypassed them to seek justice at higher levels. Mr Chen said the township spent hundreds of thousands of yuan on petitioners such as Mr Sun as the Xintai liaison office in Beijing would call the township to escort them back. Xu Zhiyong , a rights lawyer in Beijing, said a Beijing resident who petitioned for years over her husband's death during the Cultural Revolution was thrown into a mental hospital last year and released only last month after making a promise not to petition again.