On Oct. 12, the International Chinese Association for Human Rights, the Taiwan branch of the Citizens Commission on Human Rights International (CCHR), a Scientology founded institution, held a press conference in Taichung City Council to launch the so-called "Ten thousand signature campaign". The Association protested against the John Tung Foundation, which is accused of using it's status as a charity, induced the Ministry of Education to conduct screening on campus, promoted the depression measurement chart, a self-test freely available in supermarkets, helped pharmaceutical companies to promote depression medication, in exchange for large contributions.
Government officials were accused of lacking a correct recognition of depression, as President Ma Ying-jeou, Chairman Wu Po-hsiung, Director of Health Yeh Chin-chuan, are all members of the John Tung Foundation. On Oct. 13, the International Chinese Association for Human Rights further pointed out that from 2003 to 2005, the Pfizer Foundation contributed about US$400,000 in total to the John Tung Foundation. The Association asked the John Tung Foundation to disclose all contributions, and challenged the Foundation, and the Ministry of Education, calling for an open debate in 24 hours.
In addition, the parents of primary school children have been dissatisfied with the screening, worrying that once school children have found to be depressed, they have to take medicine immediately. As a result, children could be labeled with depression, leading to social exclusion, and difficulties in finding jobs in the future.
Probably because of confusing press releases, there were misleading media reports. The Taiwan Daily News used the headline "Ten thousand people protest against the John Tung Foundation." In fact, the number of people attending the protest is only about 100 to over 200. "Ten thousand" means only the name of the "signature campaign". Taichung City is the first stop of the campaign, followed by Taipei, Tainan, Kaohsiung and other places. There were no reports on the number of signatures obtained.
The media did not mention that the five professionals, who claimed to represent the medical field in the protest, are all members under umbrella organizations of the Church of Scientology. They have been active in earlier media reports. Dr. Su Xi Wen is the executive director of the International Chinese Association for Human Rights; Dr. Tao Chang Wen is a spokesman for the Citizens Commission on Human Rights, Taiwan; Dr. Chen Jau Ming serves at the New Life Education Center, the Taiwan branch of Narconon, using Scientology methods to rehabilitate drug addicts; Pharmacist Ji Wen Xi is the president of the Citizens Commission on Human Rights, Taichung; Pharmacists Cho Ka Yin is a member of the Citizens Commission on Human Rights.
Professor Qiu Tian Zhu, Department of Social Psychology, Shih Hsin University, pointed out that according to the World Health Organization, cancer, AIDS, and depression has become the three major diseases of the twenty-first century. The Department of Health, and the National Health Council, had used the "Taiwanese depression measurement scale" for a population survey, and found that over a lifetime, 20% of women and 10% of men suffer from depression. The depressed population is estimated to be over one million. The John Tung Foundation, the Ministry of Education, etc, has to response to this long-term threat.
In response to the protest, the Ministry of Education said that in order to reduce depression and self-harm incidents, schools at all levels should drawn up a three-tier plan to combat depression, and that all first-year college students should be offered a comprehensive screening. This means that complaints at individual schools are not due to direct Ministry policies, but because individual schools are having poorly designed measurement charts and inappropriate execution. Fu Mu Long, member of the Special Training Committee, Ministry of Education, suggested that "In schools, the implementation of high-risk group screening must be based on professional ethics, spirit of the law, respect for the autonomy of students, student privacy and confidentiality. Students must obtain prior consent by parents before screening can be carried out."
The John Tung Foundation responded that it has been active in recent years in the prevention of depression, for youth and college students, providing information in all kinds of ways to alleviate pressure, and enabling at risk persons to seek appropriate ways to help themselves, whether through sports, religion, counseling or medicine, and so on. From 2003 to 2004, the Pfizer Foundation of the United States donated about US$300,000 for the holding of national activities to relieve depression, such as young children creative painting, as well as lessons design for depression education. All activities have nothing to do with drugs or the treatment of depression. The John Tung Foundation only participated in the screening of first-year college students. The "Tung's depression measurement chart - college student version" took four years of preparation by scholars, including psychologists, physicians, community educators, academics, scholars, public health professionals, etc.
Pfizer said that the Pfizer Foundation, a global independent charitable unit, is set up by the United States Pfizer Pharmaceutical, which has no part in the management and operation of the Foundation. All application for contributions are reviewed and assessed with strict standards. Contributions are strictly forbidden to have any connection to drug or treatment.
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