Legal experts slam Beijing’s plan to make defamation of traditional Chinese medicine a crime

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A draft regulation in public consultation in Beijing that would criminalize the slander of traditional Chinese medicine has drawn strong criticism from legal experts who say it is too open and could exceed the city’s legal authority.

The document (link in Chinese), which was submitted for public comment on Friday by the Beijing Municipal Health Commission, states that “no organization or individual may engage in fraudulent or exaggerated advertising about TCM, use TCM’s name to obtain illegitimate benefits or harm the public interest, or defame or slander TCM by any means or behavior.

He adds that those who defame TCM could face prosecution for the crime of “arguing and causing trouble”.

The draft ordinance is the latest development in China’s long-standing effort to bring legal norms and standards to an industry that has thousands of years of history, but also has a reputation for having a scientific foundation. questionable and lax regulation.

Several experts interviewed by Caixin said sections of the bill could make citizens criminally responsible for voicing criticism of a set of traditional practices known to lack a solid scientific basis.

“What are the standards for determining what constitutes libel and slander? Because (the document) lacks these definitions, it will leave a huge room for administrative interpretation, ”said Wang Xixin, a law professor at Peking University.

Citizens will naturally have different views on a practice whose effectiveness is questionable, said He Haibo, professor of law at Tsinghua University, adding that the document shows a lack of confidence in the position and effects of TCM as well as an “excessively superstitious” approach to administrative and administrative management. penalty sanction.

“How does placing this invincibility cloak around TCM stimulate its development?” ” He said.

Wang said the proposed rules “in fact hamper research, debate, criticism and discussion in TCM conducted in accordance with scientific standards, which is not beneficial for (its) future development.”

In an opinion piece for Caixin, Deng Xueping, a lawyer at Capital Equity Legal Group in Shanghai, said the sanctions outlined in the draft could violate China’s law on the law.

“Only the Chinese National People’s Congress has the legal power to make laws that restrict or suppress the personal freedoms of citizens,” Deng said. wrote (link in Chinese). “Even if the Standing Committee of the Beijing Municipal People’s Congress adopts these regulations, the public security organs cannot use them as a basis for enacting public order sanctions or criminal liability. “

Beijing’s bill builds on China’s 2017 bill national law on TCM, which recognizes the practice as an “important component” of the country’s health system, supports its protection and development, and states that it should be regulated in accordance with its own unique characteristics. But the national TCM law does not include articles that criminalize acts of defamation or slander.

The Chinese government’s efforts to promote TCM to the world won a major victory last year when the World Health Organization announced that it would include some of the practices in its International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Health Problems. related.

Although TCM is widely available in Chinese hospitals, it is also controversial. Critics say its practices have little scientific basis, are not supported by clinical trials, and may be harmful to health.

Last year, a hospital in Jiangxi province (central China) suspended treatment for TCM after 92 children suffered burns and other skin irritations, according to local reports.

In 2018, the authorities of the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region (northern China) detained a doctor based in southern Guangdong province for nearly 100 days on suspicion of damaging the reputation of Hongmao Medicinal Liquor, a traditional folk remedy. The doctor called the liquor “poison” and publicly questioned the health benefits of its ingredients.

Contact reporter Matthew Walsh ([email protected])

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