Chinese doctor jailed for calling medicinal tonic ‘poison’

A Chinese doctor has been arrested for defaming a popular Chinese medicinal tonic as ‘poison’ in his personal blog, in which he accused the producer of the tonic of false advertising with regards its health benefits.

The doctor Tan Qindong was detained in January but the news was not announced until this month, which immediately caused uproar online as the tonic has since been banned in different parts of China for, none other than, false advertising.

The Inner Mongolia-based Chinese company Hongmao filed a defamation suit against Tan alleging that the blog post by the doctor, which was only viewed around 2,000 times, was “maliciously discrediting” the brand’s reputation and causing “significant financial loss” of as much as RMB 1.4 million (US$223,000), reported China’s state news agency Xinhua, citing a police statement.

In the blog post, Tan alleged that the tonic made of 67 different Chinese herbs, mostly toxic, did not have the ability to cure heart disease and arthritis among other diseases as the brand claimed.

The Hongmao tonic, a popular drink, especially among seniors, in fact has been banned in different Chinese provinces and cities, and the inter-province arrest of Tan by police in Inner Mongolia in Guangdong province has caused uproar online in China.

According to a report by Southern Metropolis, Hongmao tonic was singled out by 25 different food and drug administrations for violating laws and has been banned from sale in 10 different provinces and cities as a result.

Most recently, just this February, the tonic was banned from advertising in neighbouring Shaanxi province for false advertising by the province’s Bureau of Press, Publication, Broadcasting and Television.

Back in 2010, advertisements containing Hongmao tonic were singled out by Hainan Food and Drug Administration for, “repeatedly using experts and patients to testify its product and exaggerating its health benefits” to deceive and mislead consumers.

Tan later in interview admitted that calling the tonic “poison” was exaggerated but it did not warrant arrest.

China has a long history of making medicinal tonic, often with exotic herbs or animal parts. It’s believed to have some effect on lessening symptoms of various ailments.

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