A scandal surrounds a big seller of traditional medicine. How much is local government to blame?
The fake advertisement was uncommonly cruel. Zhou Erli, a farmer from Inner Mongolia, first noticed it gaining popularity online when his four-year-old daughter, sick with cancer, was in intensive care. His girl was smiling in a photograph being circulated by Quanjian, a big health-products company. The ad claimed she had fully returned to health after taking the firm’s miraculous herbal remedies.
In fact, says Mr Zhou, bosses at Quanjian had told him to take his daughter off her chemotherapy treatment at a state-run children’s hospital in Beijing. They had offered what they assured him was a potent new cure: a drink made of jujube powder and gromwell-root oil. He had spent 5,000 yuan ($800) on it. But his daughter’s cancer had spread. In 2015, after the ad appeared, Mr Zhou filed a lawsuit alleging that the company had duped him, but the court dismissed his case for lack of evidence. Little Zhou Yang died a few months later.
Her story might have ended there, had it not been taken up by a popular online myth-busting forum, Dingxiang Doctor. In late December, in an article that went viral, the website took aim at Quanjian, which it said had been taking in billions of yuan from annual sales. It had investments in football and equestrian clubs, cosmetics, banking, insurance and hotels. The article said the firm had earned huge profits by swindling patients. It accused Quanjian’s founder and boss, Shu Yuhui, of running the company like an illegal pyramid scheme. Quanjian’s salespeople, Dingxiang Doctor said, made money mainly by corralling new ones to join, earning commission on their sales too.