The government was engulfed in a new storm this week as it unveiled controversial plans to increase monitoring of citizens’ health – or what its critics call a party-poopers’ charter.
Millions of victims, or “patients”, have been held in state-run institutions for anything from a few minutes to several months after being told they needed to be “treated”.
Reports have emerged over the past 60 years of people being interrogated and told to remove their clothes by officials claiming to be interesed in their health.
Now they are to have their lifestyles kept under constant surveillance by a growing army of health police.
One woman, who preferred not to be identified, told us how she had been lured into the sinister network of so-called surgeries said to extend the length and breadth of the country.
“It all seemed harmless enough,” she said. “I had been feeling a bit poorly and I was told to go to someone who could help. It was a perfectly ordinary looking place, but when I got there I found a room full of miserable looking people all waiting to see a man known as the Doctor. A very unfriendly woman on reception told me I had a medical record, even though I have never been convicted of anything. It was really frightening.”
Other patients report having metal listening devices pressed against their chests, wooden batons applied to their tongues and needles stuck into their arms.
Experts said these intimidation techniques made it easier to extract information from the victims, who are told they will “get better” if they cooperate.
Activist and humanitarian campaigner Deirdre Bowes-Engels said she had visited other facilities where “perfectly innocent people are kept in bed all day long and not even allowed to get up to go to the toilet”.
Ms Bowes-Engels said: “The regimes are brutal. Squads of young women, themselves victims of exploitation, patrol the wards around the clock, handing out drugs and looking for patients to ‘turn over’.”
The government’s proposed measures to check that people are eating the right things, getting enough exercise and not drinking too much were described by opposition sources as a “gross infringement of civil liberties”.
A government spokesman defended public health campaigns and new health promotion agencies including health and wellbeing boards as “vitally important prevention measures to stop innocent members of the public being blown up by fast food and fizzy drinks”.
A spokesman for the al-Qaida kebab chain said he was unworried by the proposals, insisting that it would be “business as usual” for his firm.