A report exposing a fake expert selling medicine under various guises on different TV stations has sparked an online uproar over false endorsements and led to the exposure of more bogus experts.
The People's Daily on Wednesday revealed a "famous" medical expert who promoted fake medicines on different television stations under different names, nationalities and social identities.
The elderly lady, identifying herself as Liu Hongbin, claimed to be an inheritor of the traditional Miao medicine on Tibet TV and said she has been focusing on curing cough and asthma. On Gansu TV, she claimed to be a member of the Chinese Medicine Association [which never existed] and owned a prescription from the ancient court that can treat rheumatism.
On other programs, she presented herself as an inheritor of Mongol medicine; an expert from Peking University; a retired hospital president; and an expert on diabetes, insomnia and removing skin spots.
Although her medicines could not be searched on the Food and Drug Administration's website and some TV channels running her advertisements were handed harsh punishments by health authorities, the "reputed" medical expert continued to gain fame by appearing on various television stations.
Following the People's Daily report, the Beijing Youth Daily further disclosed that there were several companies responsible for the promotion of Liu's products. The report said that one of her products was sold for 2 million yuan within two months.
Moreover, several hospitals denied Liu was their employee to news site thepaper.cn.
The Global Times found that many users of Liu's products had complained online that the products were useless and even caused allergy.
The reports have created a stir on the Internet with the topic on Sina Weibo receiving 580,000 comments. Many netizens called for the arrest of the swindlers and severe punishment of the television stations.
The backlash then led to the exposure of another three bogus experts who were mocked by netizens as "best actors and actresses." Among them is Huo Guangxian, who claimed to be an expert on traditional Chinese medicine and promoted a soup that can boost hair growth. However, in a 2014 program on Ningxia TV, Huo was presented as a patient surnamed Song who has suffered from lumbar disc for three years.
"Driven by huge profits, some television stations take the risk of broadcasting such programs. And they became rampant due to loose government supervision," Wang Sixin, a law professor at the Communication University of China, told the Global Times.
Wang Shan, former president of Peking University People's Hospital, said that as there is no special public opinion monitoring center in the hospitals and the cost to publish the information in proper channels is high, they cannot usually refute the rumor actively.
According to China's Advertisement Law enacted in 2015, the maximum penalty for false advertising is 2 million yuan (.3 million).