WeChat is one of the biggest social networks in China. The company is heavily regulated by the government and has to comply with specific directives from state officials. The latest controversial story is related to the removal of several news stories about Mr. Tan Qindong, an anesthesiologist from Guangzhou City.
Mr. Tan made several allegations in regards to Hongmao Pharmaceuticals’ latest drug. The company claims that the all-natural, herbal liquor is capable of treating common cold, inflammation, and improving immune systems of users. Mr. Tan used his WeChat account to tell the public about the potential toxicity of several herbal ingredients which could endanger the human body in the long term.
The police department of Liangcheng arrested Mr. Tan in Guangzhou at the beginning of 2018. Liangcheng is a city in Inner Mongolia, an autonomous Chinese region where Hongmao Pharmaceuticals resides. The company claimed that defamatory statements from Mr. Tan contained false information and caused $119 thousand in damages.
The case received a lot of media attention in China. Medical professionals and supporters of Mr. Tan called for justice and urged pharmaceutical companies to follow the letter of existing regulations related to drugs. However, the criminalization of a scientific debate continued. Fortunately, the case was eventually dismissed due to insufficient evidence.
Hongmao is a big corporation and enjoys protection from the government and social media. According to a new post from Global Voices, WeChat removed many discussions and posts criticizing Hongmao Pharmaceuticals. Numerous stories appeared on WeChat over the following months. Most of them were manually censored or removed within the next 24 hours after publication.
Chinese state officials formally demanded WeChat to remove all negative content related to the Hongmao case. As of right now, all reposts and links to unregulated news sources are being banned on WeChat. All posts and messages from Mr. Tan are also manually moderated and censored if deemed inappropriate by the Chinese government.
Mr. Tan told in his stories that he was beaten, tortured, and had to undergo psychotherapy to treat his PTSD after inhumane conditions he was held in during his three-month detention in the Liangcheng jail. He also continued criticizing Hongmao Pharmaceuticals.