Departments and ministries under the State Council have responded to a wide range of public concerns during the past week in areas that include misleading online advertising and scams, violence against doctors and overcharging.
The responses included action by regulators against the country’s leading search engine, Baidu, which is a Nasdaq-listed company, and against a hospital in Beijing.
Both were involved in a high-profile case in which Wei Zexi, a 21-year-old college student from Shaanxi province, died from a rare soft-tissue cancer last month after spending more than 200,000 yuan ($31,000) on treatment that was later believed to be ineffective. Wei went for the treatment at the Second Hospital of the Beijing Armed Police Corps after finding out about it and believing it to be recommended when he carried out online research using Baidu.
On May 16, the Cyberspace Administration of China ruled that Baidu had profoundly depended on profits from paid listings in its search results and that it did not make clear to Internet users that the listings had been heavily affected by commercial promotions.
Meanwhile a joint probe by the National Health and Family Planning Commission and two military organs found that the Second Hospital of the Beijing Armed Police Corps was also in error for publicizing false information that had misled patients and the public. The hospital was also found to have illegally subcontracted medical services to private businesses. Baidu and the hospital have been ordered to immediately overhaul their operations to rectify the situation.
・ In response to another public concern, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said on May 16 it was cracking down on online applications that illegally change people’s phone numbers as part of scams and fraud schemes. The ministry said its crackdown includes the establishment of a blacklist of software providers and the removal of offending applications from online platforms, as well as ending their online publication and promotion.
・ The National Health and Family Planning Commission has said local authorities must adopt a zero-tolerance attitude toward violence against doctors. It followed a serious assault on the morning of May 10 in which a patient and two friends allegedly stabbed a doctor in the back and face before fleeing a hospital in the Shizhu Tujia autonomous county of Chongqing. On the same morning, a doctor named Xiao Zuke, at Jiangxi People’s Hospital, was allegedly beaten by seven people who were relatives of a patient who had been pronounced dead. All 10 suspects from both incidents have been detained by police.
・ The National Development and Reform Commission, the country’s top economic planner, intervened last week in a dispute between a trucker and an auto towing company that was accused of overcharging. Zhao Chenxin, an NDRC spokesman, said on May 12 that the towing company has been ordered to apologize to the driver and will be punished for breaking price regulations. It emerged the company attempted to charge 38,000 yuan for towing the truck along the Xiangtan-Leiyang Expressway in Hunan province following an accident on April 2. The company only towed the stricken truck for less than 20 km. Price regulations stipulate that the service should have been billed at around 12,500 yuan.