Hong Kong's traditional Chinese medicine laws 'putting public at risk'

PUBLISHED : Monday, 23 July, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 23 July, 2007, 12:00am

Hong Kong is probably the worst place in the world for traditional Chinese medicine, according to practitioner Graham Player. 'This is the fault of Britain, which relegated it to a cultural art form, with no control or regulation. The way it is regulated is a major risk to the community.'

The British legacy is evident when you compare Hong Kong's large hospitals to those on the mainland or in Taiwan, which have a Chinese medicine section, alongside emergency, ear, nose and throat and all the other departments. Hong Kong hospitals have no such section.

In September 1999, the Legislative Council set up the Chinese Medicine Council to regulate the 7,000 practitioners in Hong Kong. It said it would implement a licensing and registration system in phases, allowing practitioners to continue working, while requiring them to register or pass a licensing exam.

They can sit the exam if they have completed undergraduate training in Chinese medicine practice or its equivalent, as approved by the Practitioners Board, or completed an undergraduate degree course in Chinese medicine practice or its equivalent as approved by the board.

Mr Player is angry with the new regulations. The council requires that he sit an exam in Chinese. While he can speak Cantonese, he said he did not know the written terms on which he would be examined. 'The terminology is too difficult. Why does the exam have to be in Chinese? Why do they want me to sit an exam? I have been practising acupuncture since 1979,' he said.

He has a diploma as an acupuncture practitioner from the Acupuncture Colleges (Australia) and is a member of the Chinese Acupuncture Association (Hong Kong) and the Association of Hong Kong and Kowloon Practitioners of Chinese Medicine.

'The government has decided to allow any listed/registered practitioner of Chinese medicine who practises any of the modalities - acupuncture, herbs, bone setting - to have the legal right to practise all three modalities, even though that practitioner may not have any training at all in those other modalities,' Mr Player said.

'Fortunately for the profession of acupuncture, Hong Kong is the only location in the world which has taken this unprecedented approach. I believe other countries, and [mainland] China, will be sensible enough not to follow such a path that puts the general public at risk of incompetent practitioners.

'I commend the approach that the Australian government has taken, whereby a practitioner can only be registered in modalities in which they have the required qualifications and experience - acupuncture, herbs or bone setting.'