China's doctors association on Monday said it will offer legal assistance to a Guangzhou-based doctor, who faces prosecution after calling a popular Chinese medicinal liquor "poison," which has sparked controversy in China over the alleged abuses of local officials.
"It does no good for society if an article aimed at spreading knowledge is not tolerated," Deng Liqiang, director of the legal department of the Chinese Medical Doctor Association (CMDA), told the Global Times.
The doctor, Tan Qindong, 39, wrote an article in December 2017, saying "Hongmao medicinal liquor is poison." Tan has been detained since January 2018 by the public security bureau in Liangcheng county in North China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, where the medicinal liquor company is based, Beijing Youth Daily reported on Sunday.
A team from CMDA will meet with Tan's wife Liu Xuan on Tuesday and will sign an agreement to provide further legal assistance, Deng said.
Authorities should treat diverse academic arguments and remarks with caution and avoid criminalizing civil disputes, the association said in a Monday statement.
Deng's article said that Hongmao medicinal liquor exaggerates its efficiency in advertisements, and said he doubts whether the company can prove the liquor is capable of curing multiple diseases, such as arteriosclerosis and myocardial infarction as it claims, Beijing Youth Daily reported Monday.
In 2003, China's food and drug regulator considered the alcohol an OTC drug. The China Food and Drug Administration (CFDA) ordered on Monday the company to explain its false advertising during the past five years and the safety and effectiveness of the medicine.
The CFDA's system has recorded 137 cases of adverse reactions of the liquor from 2004 to 2017, including dizziness, itching, rashes, vomiting and abdominal pain, it said in a statement.
The medicinal liquor ad was banned in February by the Shaanxi Food and Drug Administration during a campaign to stamp out fraud and false advertising.
"It is not proper to say that it can cure diseases since it is categorized as a food or health care product, and not sold as medicine in our hospital," Cui Yongqiang, an associate professor at Guang'anmen Hospital, told the Global Times on Monday.
The liquor company claims to have lost business from two companies over Tan's article, which led to losses of over 1.37 million yuan ($218,000), said the Beijing Youth Daily report, citing a testimony of the public security bureau in Liangcheng county where Tan was detained.
"We are not clear about the process of the testimony and we do not recognize the figure. They cannot prove that the companies returned the liquor because they read Tan's article," Beijing Youth Daily reported, citing Hu Dingfeng, Tan's defense lawyer.
"Due to Tan's article, Tan could be convicted if the liquor is not proven to be poisonous," Yan Yiming, a Shanghai-based lawyer told the Global Times on Monday.
"However, cases also exist where corporations with a strong influence in local areas interfere in law enforcement, which should be strictly forbidden," Yan said.
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