Chinese police apologise for detaining patient over hospital food complaint

County police chief suspended after online backlash over case

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 20 August, 2017, 4:30pm
UPDATED : Monday, 21 August, 2017, 12:07am

Police in the Chinese city of Handan, Hebei province, have apologised to a patient wrongly detained after he complained online about the cost and quality of hospital food.

On its official microblog on Sunday night, the Handan Public Security Bureau said the man, identified only by his surname Zhang, was detained in an “inappropriate application of the law”.

The police chief of She county, where Zhang was held, had been suspended and the officer in charge of the case transferred, the bureau said.

The county’s police branch was ordered to re-examine its policies to prevent a recurrence.

The bureau’s about-turn came after Zhang’s detention last week created a furore online.

Zhang, who described himself as a farmer, was held by county police after he wrote online about his experience at the canteen of a newly relocated hospital in the county, the Legal Evening News reported on Saturday.

He said he “tolerated the pain” of paying the high prices – citing the 14 yuan (US$2) charge for a bowl of noodles – adding that he “wanted to faint” at what he described as the scant amount of food in his set meal.

“Where is the big bun that costs 1 yuan? The noodles that cost 4 yuan? The 5 yuan bowl of traditional noodles that one person could not finish?” he wrote. “Did those all disappear with the move? Where is the [hospital’s] moral conscience?”

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The comments – posted online on the Baidu Tieba forum, Sohu, and WeChat – also criticised the hospital’s relocation, which, he said, made it “extremely inconvenient” for people to see the doctor.

Zhang was then detained and accused of spreading falsehoods and disrupting public order.

But online users were shocked that someone would be detained simply for complaining about hospital food.

“You can get detained for this? [The man] just wanted to complain a little!” one commenter said.

“Complaining about food can lead to detention – very scary,” another wrote.

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Handan police responded on Saturday by saying county officers had been told to re-examine the case “strictly based on facts”, evidence, and the law.

“If there is a law enforcement issue, it must be corrected immediately,” it said. “We thank online users for the attention, supervision, and support.”