Aug 23, 2017 06:48 PM

Should Patient Be Detained for Calling Hospital Food ‘Tasteless’?

(Beijing) — China’s netizens are outraged by what they call “police overkill” when suppressing voices online, after a patient who complained about “tasteless food” at a public hospital was detained, and a schoolteacher was almost detained for questioning alleged forced donations to a local government program.

Police in Huazhou district in the northwestern city of Weinan, Shaanxi province, on Monday confirmed that it had ordered the detention of a local teacher for “picking a quarrel and provoking trouble” linked to an article posted on Chinese microblogging site Weibo in early June. In the article, the teacher, identified only by his surname, Li, complained about how civil servants, including teachers, at public schools were forced to give 200 yuan ($30) each in a one-time donation to a poverty relief fund backed by the district government.

Police said the donations were made on a voluntary base and that it detained Li because he allegedly spread “false information.”

But police decided to suspend the five-day detention order, issued on June 9, on the ground that Li had showed remorse, according to a statement released on Monday via the official microblog account of the district police. Public attention was drawn to the case earlier this week after a document that appeared to be the warrant for Li’s detention was leaked on Chinese social media.

This revelation came after the detention of another internet user last week in Shexian, or She county, in the northern province of Hebei, for complaining about the allegedly pricey and tasteless food served at a local public hospital. This incident made national headlines in recent days.

The former patient posted an article in an online forum and social media platforms such as WeChat earlier in June, fuming about the small portions of food that patients were served at the hospital, and how expensive it could be even if it tasted bad, according to local media reports.

The man, identified only by his surname, Zhang, was taken into police custody for “fabricating facts and disturbing public order.”

Freedom of speech is enshrined in the country’s constitution, but people can still be persecuted for speaking out under various laws and government regulations in China. However, such incidents are usually limited to rumor-mongering and comments linked to politically sensitive topics.

Amid a resounding backlash over the apparent overreaction, city police in Handan, which administers Shexian, ordered a reversal of the detention order in a review over the weekend.

It has also suspended the head of the police station that authorized Zhang’s detention and transferred the officer on duty on the day of the arrest to a minor post. The police station was also told to apologize to Zhang, city police said Sunday.

The district police in Shaanxi province who were determined to snuff out online comments deemed undesirable by the authority haven’t been asked to apologize.

The schoolteacher from Shaanxi who wrote in an online forum about the forced donations questioned whether such donations were legal, according to the police statement.

He also asked if such donations were necessary in the first place as government departments could raise enough money for anti-poverty efforts by stopping corruption and the splurging of public money by government officials on trips and banquets funded by taxpayers’ money.

Li isn’t the only one complaining about alleged “forced donations” by authorities.

In an online letter to the mayor of Weinan on June 7, a person using the name He Lei also complained about how civil servants, including teachers at public schools in the city’s Huazhou district, were ordered to make donations to the local government’s anti-poverty fund.

A supposed payroll sheet from Shaohua Middle School in Hua county in Weinan, which has been circulated online in recent days, showed almost all school staffers had donated 200 yuan to the fund.

However, Caixin could not independently confirm the authenticity of the document as repeated calls to the school went unanswered.

Contact reporter Li Rongde (

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