Chinese doctor calling popular medicinal liquor ‘poison’ released on bail following public outcry
Photos of Tan Qingdong before and after his three-month life in a detention center in Liangcheng county, northern China’s Inner Mongolia autonomous region. Photo: Sina Weibo
A Chinese doctor who was detained for three months for describing a medicinal liquor as “poison” in an online article was released on bail on Tuesday, following a public outcry over the legitimacy of police involvement in the case which could just be a civil dispute, according to The Paper, a Shanghai-based news website.
The doctor, Tan Qindong, had been held at a detention center in Liangcheng county, northern China’s Inner Mongolia autonomous region, since January. The county is also the location of the manufacturer of the medicinal liquor, Hongmao Pharmaceutical. 
On Tuesday, the Inner Mongolian prosecutors’ office said there was “insufficient evidence” to prosecute Tan and that he should be released. It also told prosecutors in Liangcheng to return the case to the police for further investigation.
Also on Tuesday, the Ministry of Public Security said it had ordered Inner Mongolian police to review their handling of the incident.
Tan was taken away by police in Liangcheng from his home in Guangzhou, southern China’s Guangdong province, on January 10 after making the “poison” remark about the medicinal liquor in a blog post. On January 25, police from Liangcheng arrested Tan on charges of “harming business reputation and product reputation” following approval from Liangcheng prosecutors’ office. 
The case has triggered a wave of public discussion online in recent days over whether there was an abuse of power by Liancheng police as a result of the company’s effort to eliminate bad effects on the company triggered by the article, and whether Tan’s article remarking the tonic as “poison” and allegedly having brought business loss to the company belongs to civil dispute or a criminal case so that the police has the right to detain Tan. 
“While police in China has the right to take a suspect in custody from another province, criminal detention has strict legal standards. The quick arrest of Tan by Liangcheng police raises suspicions about abuse of power,” according to Wang Dianming, a lawyer from Beijing Tongchuang Law Firm, who was quoted in a report by the Xinhua News Agency on Tuesday. 
On Monday, the Chinese Medical Doctor Association issued a statement, saying, “Government organizations must respond to different academic opinions with caution, and avoid criminalizing civil disputes.”
The product at the center of the controversy is one of numerous herbal-based non-prescription drugs aimed at China’s elderly citizens. Hongmao Pharmaceutical is known for making lofty claims about their health benefits. 
The television advertisement for the tonic says that just two sips a day can cure everything from Alzheimer’s disease and irregular periods to cardiac problems and joint pain, South China Morning Post reported. 
In January, an article in an official local newspaper described Hongmao as “the pride of Inner Mongolia”, while the Liangcheng county said it would give Hongmao’s plan to list on the Shanghai stock market its “full support”.
China’s Food and Drug Administration said on Monday it had ordered its regional branch in Inner Mongolia to review all regulation violations made by Hongmao over the past five years.
The administration said it was also considering reclassifying the tonic as a prescription drug, which would make it subject to more rigorous requirements and approval procedures.
In an interview with Jumian, a program produced by The Beijing News, after his release, Tan said he doesn’t regret writing the article despite three months’ separation from his family because as a human being he needed to do something right at least once in a lifetime. “This is what a doctor should do,” he said in an interview with The Paper.
Photos of Tan were also posted on China’s social media, showing different expressions on his face before and after his detention in Liangcheng, with many wondering what he had been through over the past three months. 
“It is hard to tell from the glassy expressions in his eyes what he had been through in the detention center,” said one user on Sina Weibo, China’s equivalent of Twitter, on Tuesday. 
“If it was not with the help of the Internet, maybe the doctor is still suffering in the detention center,” said another under the hashtag Hongmao Pharmaceutical Case Reversal which has been viewed for over 1,000 million times as of Wednesday. 

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