The Slapping Therapist’s Day in Court. Traditional Chinese Medicine on trial – Day 1

And so the long-awaited trial against a super quack finally begins. Yesterday the Sydney Morning Herald published an article documenting the court proceedings of the notorious “Slapping Therapist” Hongchi Xiao, whose ‘failure’ to manipulate a 6yo boy’s ‘life force’ (Chi) by slapping him led to the boy’s death (another victim fell in the UK, but he was extradited to stand trial in Australia). Here you can find some background info regarding this tragedy. I’ve copied the article below and afterwards I will give some comments, which may, or may not, contain a number of swear words.

Start of article

“A six-year-old boy who was subjected to “slapping healing” was not given insulin, was forced to fast for three days, and had his arms and legs slapped as he laid on a Sydney hotel bed dying and unable to breathe, a court has heard. The child, who cannot be named, had Type 1 diabetes and was given his final insulin injection on April 22, 2015, at the beginning of a traditional Chinese medicine workshop at Hurstville in Sydney’s south.

His health deteriorated and he died five days later from diabetic ketoacidosis, a build-up of acid in the body after no insulin is administered.

The boy’s mother, father, maternal grandmother and Chinese medicine practitioner Hongchi Xiao have been charged with manslaughter, with the Crown alleging each owed a duty of care to the boy that they breached through gross negligence. All have pleaded not guilty.

On Wednesday, at the opening of a trial at the NSW District Court, a jury heard the boy vomited frequently in the days before his death and became so weak he had to be pushed around in a pram because he could not walk or stand. Crown prosecutor Sharon Harris said the boy’s mother took part in a police interview after his death and told officers his face and eyes began to turn yellow on the day he died, he couldn’t talk or open his eyes and his breathing was not normal. People at the workshop then slapped the boy on the arms to wake him up.

The child’s mother and grandmother were allegedly told the boy was adjusting to the “paida lajin” treatment – which involves stretching and being slapped to “activate the body’s self-healing power” – and he would improve after toxins were released from his body. That night, on the evening of April 27, the boy was staying at the Ritz Hotel in Hurstville with his grandmother when he started vomiting a black substance and had a seizure, the jury heard. Ms Harris said another patron at the hotel earlier heard slapping sounds coming from the room.

The boy’s grandmother, who does not speak English, ran hysterically out of the room to raise the alarm. Ms Harris said Mr Xiao and his associates, who had been having dinner nearby, returned to the hotel and went to the boy’s room, where they began slapping him on his limbs. “[The boy] wasn’t breathing by this stage and he didn’t have a pulse,” Ms Harris said.

Hotel guests and staff performed CPR on the six-year-old before emergency services arrived and he was taken to St George Hospital, where he was pronounced deceased.

Ms Harris said the workshop, which involved slapping some participants until they were “quite heavily bruised”, claimed insulin could be generated by slapping and stretching and such exercises could also heal Parkinson’s disease and cancer. She said the boy’s mother was drawn to the workshop after the recommendation of a friend, because her son was growing tired of being injected with insulin four times a day and she wanted him to be like other kids. The mother’s barrister said her client was not an “alternative therapy fanatic” looking for a “miracle cure” for her son. “She tells police about being betrayed by Master Xiao, a man she refers to as a doctor,” the barrister said.

“This trial is about misplaced trust, and whether misplaced trust in all the circumstances of this case amounts to manslaughter.”

Mr Xiao’s barrister Robert Cavanagh said his client did not owe a duty of care to the boy and disputes that he told the boy’s mother to stop giving him insulin. “It’s our case he did nothing that caused the death of [the boy],” Dr Cavanagh said. He said the method of “alternative self-healing” taught by his client was not confined to slapping and stretching, and involved “many other things” including jogging and meditation.

The trial continues before Judge David Arnott.”

End of article

This article details a drama about people suffering from incomprehensible levels of delusion. What is striking, is the fact that at no time during this unfolding tragedy did any of the adults consider given this poor boy his insulin.  His medical condition is known, an effective treatment is known and available, and yet, it simply does not occur to any of them. No, in the end they reverted to ‘emergency slapping’. I cannot get my head around this. What type of salesman can instil such an undying believe in a person’s mind that by manipulating Chi you can cure disease? Mr Xiao should seriously consider becoming a second-hand car salesman. With his power of persuasion, he will be the employee of the century.

My anger, however, is primarily directed towards the people in positions of power who continue to promote the existence of ‘Chi’ and that it can be manipulated by treatments and practices falling in the realm of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM).  Prime examples to name but a few; Prof Alan Bensoussan, director of the National Institute of Complementary Medicine (NICM). The brand new and much beloved parliamentarian Dr Kerryn Phelps – part of the NICM and their drive to integrate quackery with modern healthcare (it will be interesting to see how she uses her position in parliament to further the interests of the NICM). Dr Ven Tan, director of Tasly Healthpac (where this slapping therapy workshop took place) who was assisted by the NICM to integrate TCM with modern healthcare. In a separate court case the parents of the diseased boy have sued Dr Ven Tan and his ‘integrative medicine’ clinic. Hopefully they will also consider suing the NICM as they are the kingpins in establishing these ‘open-minded’ integrative clinics in Australia.

The sad part is that the number of these tragedies will in all likelihood only increase. Because Alan and the boys are hellbent on assisting the Chinese Communist Party to globalise TCM in all its forms.  Why? Because they want to tap into the $170 billion TCM market. But they are clever. They have a safety net. They continue to insist that they only promote ‘evidence based’ treatments and the integration of these treatments with modern healthcare. As long as they promote TCM in general terms, without specifying treatments, they will continue to get away with murder.  They know that many TCM practitioners are so delusional and have such a hatred of modern medicine, that many will insist that their patients should stop taking modern treatments. If you can manipulate Chi you simply don’t need anything else.  It is a lucrative risk-free strategy. They make money by promoting Chi, and when things go wrong, the individual practitioner and the members of public who fell for their scam will be in trouble. The NICM gets away scot-free.

It is also a very effective strategy because in the last couple of years they have managed to convince authorities to establish a national registration board for TCM practitioners, which elevated TCM from quackery to an excepted healthcare profession. They managed to include TCM in the Australia-China free trade agreement, they convinced the regulators in Australia (TGA) to except Chi as a real thing. TCM producers can now sell ‘medications’ in Australia that influences ‘Chi’. Via the pacific office of the World Health Organisation (WHO) they have managed to convince the WHO to accept TCM in all its forms. Even the WHO now promotes and endorse TCM in general, again, without specifying which treatments or medications are effective. This strategy comes straight from Alan’s book of evil plans. The impact that all of this will have on healthcare is difficult to comprehend. What I do know is that this is a tragedy of epic proportions.  The fact that China quite recently lifted the ban on rhino horn and tiger bones for medicinal use indicates that they promote all of TCM and the blatant lie that Alan continue to tell, that they only focus on ‘evidence-based’ treatments, is a smoke screen. We have now entered ‘Open Season’ – many will die. You can read about how Alan managed to get all of this done here, here and here.

I consider this court case as extremely important, because TCM is on trial and I truly hope that this case will wake people up (e.g. the minister for health, Greg Hunt). I will definitely keep an eye on proceedings and will update whenever new information becomes available.

For the sake of your health (and of rhinos), please don’t vote for Dr Kerryn Phelps!

You ‘spineless bitch’! No, this is not what I am calling Dr Phelps, this was just one of the reactions from one of her fervent supporters on my article detailing her support of homeopathy. While homeopathy is quite easy to debunk (in short, it contains nothing), traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is somewhat more complicated because of its sheer size, history, the fact that most medications do indeed contain something and its politically loaded nature. However, TCM’s foundation is build on similar thoroughly debunked notions of manipulating a person’s life force with herbs, (endangered) animal material, needles and apparently via ‘treatments’ such as by slapping yourself. So, let us have a look at the role that Dr Phelps is playing in keeping these, and let’s be honest, quite dangerous ideas alive by using the highly effective smokescreen called ‘integrative medicine’.

The company you keep defines you

As a public figure Dr Phelps is obviously very careful about polishing and protecting her squeaky-clean image and is therefore careful with what she says or write. It is thus far better to look at the company she keeps. Dr Phelps is listed as an adjunct at the National Institute of Complementary Medicine (NICM) hosted at Western Sydney University (WSU). On her campaign website she states that: ‘Dr Phelps is committed to teaching the next generation of doctors as Conjoint Professor at University of New South Wales Faculty of Medicine and in the NICM at WSU.’ She is also a member of the NICMs advisory board which states that “The NICM Board will provide advice to NICM in the advancement of its objectives and priorities….” This is important because their main objective, as advised by Dr Phelps and others, is to integrate ineffective and sometimes dangerous remedies with modern healthcare.

This movement is called ‘integrative medicine’ and Institutes such as the NICM is responsible for expanding this movement (inter)nationally via their catchphrase; “the science of integrative medicine’ (translated; ‘the science of BSing the public’). Dr Phelps also owns her very own ‘integrative medicine’ clinic where she employs a naturopath who also happens to be the vice-president of the Australian Traditional Medicine Society who in turn supports all sorts of quackery (including TCM and homeopathy). Please have a look at their website.

So how do they do it?

The quacks with money

It’s a tightrope act. On the one side you have people such as the esoteric, energy healing, anti-vaccination, homeopathy-loving Judy Jacka. Or people such as the TCM practitioner Dr Ven Tan who the NICM assisted in setting up an integrative medicine clinic (Dr Tan has connections to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) who actively pursues the globalisation of TCM). Another example is the Beijing University of Chinese Medicine (BUCM – also connected to the CCP) who is now in the process of starting their very own TCM hospital in Sydney in collaboration with the NICM. When you read about what Judy Jacka, Dr Ven Tan and other like-minded people believe and say about complementary, alternative, traditional and integrative medicine, then it is very clear that they believe all remedies and treatments work, because it is based on the manipulation of life forces and energy fields. They see themselves as visionaries with the ability and power to heal by manipulating these ‘forces’. Here you can read about Judy Jacka’s ideas on ‘medicine’ and her stance on vaccinations (scroll down). And here is list of quackery that she supports – this webpage was quickly taken down after I’ve written a letter (here is a shortened version) to the vice chancellor of WSU, Barney Glover, complaining about excepting funding from people such as Judy Jacka, because people, including children, will and unfortunately did die as a result.

Now the NICM wants money, and this is exactly what they get, with Judy Jacka donating $4 million (WSU made her a honorary fellow, with Dr Phelps listed as a spokesperson regarding this donation), Marcus Blackmore donating $10 million (received an honorary doctorate from WSU) and at a time there was talk of $20-30 million from China in order to start the BUCM’s TCM hospital in Sydney (this is kept under wraps but I have some indirect evidence). Many clinics also donate smaller amounts, which the NICM does not always declare in their ‘scientific publications’ – clear scientific misconduct. Here is one example where they again deleted the web-page containing the information once I published about it, but the WSU management simply squashed the whole matter.

In return, all of these, lets be honest, quacks want credibility for themselves as well as the ‘medicine’ and ‘treatments’ that they happen to sell. The NICM is happy to provide this ‘credibility’ in exchange for money.

Those that threaten their plans (a.k.a. ‘spineless bitches’)

On the other side of this tightrope act you have the public, politicians, regulators and some brave scientists, and of course, science itself. One abused concept that they exploit to try and keep these people happy is ‘safety’. They lobbied regulators/politicians with examples of people who got hurt or died as a direct result of TCM with the explicit recommendation that to ensure public safety, TCM has to be regulated. It worked really well, because back in 2000 Victoria was the first to regulate TCM and in 2012 this has gone national, and suddenly TCM became equivalent with other evidence based modern healthcare professions. Since 2012 everything went into overdrive with TCM being included in the Australia-China free trade agreement. The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) now excepts TCM ‘terminology’ (blood is cold, lack of yin/yang etc) as valid indications and even the World Health Organisation (WHO) are planning to include TCM as an evidence-based healthcare system (the NICM has a thick finger in the pie with all of these events – please read here, here and here).

But the fact of the matter is that they do not give a hoot about safety. They simply abused the concept in order to achieve their objectives. There are two important aspects regarding safety. 1. direct safety e.g. a specific herb containing a poisonous substance and 2. indirect safety e.g. lack of efficacy with people getting hurt or die because of neglecting a serious medical condition. A tragic example to illustrate this is the 10 babies that died and 400 that were sickened by a homeopathic remedy that was incorrectly diluted and contained high enough levels of deadly nightshade. This is a direct safety issue. But let’s say that the homeopaths did dilute everything away, like they should have, and these babies were given this remedy containing nothing to treat a serious medical conditions, then they might have died of their medical condition because they received no treatment. This is then an indirect safety issue. The NICM only focus on the former to reach their objectives whilst completely ignoring the latter which is by far the biggest killer of the two.

This is also the reason why they want to ‘integrate’ TCM with conventional medicine, because they know it lacks efficacy and is therefore an indirect safety issue. They know just as well as anybody else that these life forces don’t exist, and hence manipulating it with herbs, needles, whatever, simply cannot and do not work on its own.

However, to create public trust they invented, or at least, they are exploiting the notorious A+B vs B clinical trial design in which they split patients into two groups with both groups receiving a treatment that works, for example IVF (B). Then they add something that they know doesn’t work eg herbs, acupuncture (A) to only one group which then becomes the ‘treatment’ group. In effect, they are cleverly measuring the placebo response, in order to convince the ‘spineless bithces’ that there is indeed efficacy (or a level of indirect safety), all the while knowing that there isn’t. And sometimes they still struggle to even measure a reasonable placebo response – here is one excellent example where the Australian tax payer dished out more than $600 000 to measure the placebo response of acupuncture.

Here is a video (in English and German) of a presentation given in Germany by the Director of the NICM, Alan Bensoussan, explaining how they played this extremely successful tightrope act in Australia.  This methodology will now obviously be used by similar institutes in other Western countries.

The impact on the health of people (and rhinos)  

To keep the money rolling in they do however need to show that they truly believe in the magic of TCM and hence have no problem to promote rhino horn as an effective medicine. On their website they even listed an internet site where you can buy rhino horn – again quickly removed after they were notified about it. In their world, rhino horn is excellent to: “Clear heat, subdue Yang and cool blood, relieves fearfulness, detoxifying.” And can thus be used for: “High fever, sun stroke, trauma, mania, convulsion, sore throat, epilepsy, febrile disease, infectious disease, macula, bad skin conditions, subcutaneous bleeding.” They have no problem with this, but it all depends on who they are talking to, and on what side of this divide those people are. To add insult to injury one of the NICM’s business partners was even caught and jailed for having many kilograms of endangered animal parts, including rhino horn, in his possession. And as far as I can tell, they are still working with this TCM practitioner. Result. Three rhinos a day are blasted to smithereens to supply these quacks with their ‘remedies’.

And then Dr Phelps have the audacity to tweet about her opposition to live animal exports “We must bring this cruel trade to an end.” Yes, sure, but what about the slaughter of endangered animals to feed the insatiable TCM industry and their unquenchable thirst for more money? It’s about votes! “Polling confirms live export is a hot issue for voters in critical #Wentworth by-election”

Some, if not all, TCM practitioners are so delusional that they truly believe that they can manipulate ‘life forces’ and because of this, they obviously do not need modern healthcare. It is two opposing systems and their income obviously depends on the public believing in TCM. It is therefore quite common that a TCM practitioner will ‘rubbish’ modern healthcare and convince patients to forego their modern medication and only use TCM. According to Dr Phelps, she cares about the health of refugee children on Nauru and yet have no problem misleading parents, via her funders, to believe that they can cure their young son’s diabetes type 1 with ‘slapping therapy’, which aims to restore the flow of Chi (life force) through meridians. Unfortunately, this boy died because the practitioner told the parents to stop their effective medication. Here is another recent example – same story.

The big problem with the NICM, advised by Dr Phelps, is how they have colluded with the CCP and how they are facilitating the CCPs plans to globalise all of TCM (you can read about this extensive investigation here, here and here).  This includes how they have lobbied regulators (TGA), the WHO, who both now recommends that TCM, without specifying which ‘medicines’ or ‘treatments’, be integrated with modern healthcare – but what they don’t tell you is that they (via one of the NICMs adjuncts, Michael Smith) was one of the primary drafters of the WHO’s recommendations. So, for the first time in the history of the WHO, they will now endorse TCM!!

It’s about money, and they could not care less about your safety. Here is a couple of recent headlines explaining the situation.

$170b Global Chinese medicine market behind University of Western Sydney deal with Beijing

 WHO endorses traditional Chinese medicine. Expect deaths to rise.

State-sponsored quackery. China is ramping up its promotion of its ancient medical arts. That is dangerous for humans as well as rhinos

Their safety net

Intentionally misleading people, including children, who then get hurt or die can obviously get them into serious trouble. This was illustrated by the extradition of the Slapping Therapist from the UK (where another person died) to Australia. He is now in and out of court and quite recently the clinic providing this ‘treatment’ and its director (Dr Ven Tan) have also been sued.  But unfortunately, the people who are actually responsible for creating and exploiting this growing chaos in healthcare, the NICM and ‘Dr’ Phelps, are still getting away with it. It is because they have a safety net. Calling for the ‘integration’ of only ‘evidence-based’ TCM with modern healthcare is in effect their safety net while performing their tightrope act.

All they need to do is to generalise without naming specific remedies or treatments. Create a bit of public suspicion in modern healthcare, call it ‘western medicine’ and feed of anti-western sentiment, hammer on the popularity of complementary medicines, the public’s’ ‘freedom of choice’, the need to ensure safety, the ‘growing body of evidence’ etc. and they know that the public will fall for it, while they continue to make money from this industry – and they will continue to get away with. Even when they are fully aware that children unnecessarily die because of what they are doing.  If anyone asks them about ‘slapping therapy’ they will very quickly claim that they have never supported this specific treatment. They might even call it cruel and inhumane but they know that they have helped this clinic with ‘integrating’ TCM. They are so clever, but morally and ethically bankrupt.

For them the ‘money is in the magic’, and their challenge is to continue with their tightrope act for as long as possible. Unfortunately, they also have the backing of the Vice Chancellor Barney Glover (who is fully aware of all of this) and even the Chancellor, Peter Shergold – and this makes them almost untouchable.

Conclusions

The total extent of the damage that is being done by ‘Dr’ Phelps is impossible to know, but if she wins this election and has influence on government level then the healthcare system is in for a very tough time. If she can mislead young children about the effectiveness of ancient remedies while she knows that it is ineffective, she’ll be able to mislead just about anyone regarding anything. We all know how politics work. ‘if you support our motion, then we will support yours’ And this will be exploited by the NICM once she sets foot in parliament. I can only hope that the ASIO will have a look at her connections, specifically her CCP connections via the NICM and how they are planning to exploit it. It is a strange world we live in when people such as Dr Phelps (and Prof Bensoussan) who should be behind bars actually have a very good chance of getting into parliament.

If you happen to know anyone in Wentworth please forward this info to them. They, at the very least, need to know who they are voting for.

“For a new era of China-South Africa friendship”. Open letter by President Xi Jinping – the story of TCM going global.

The BRICS summit kicks off tomorrow in Johannesburg with leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa in attendance, representing roughly half the worlds population. A few days ago President Xi Jinping of China published an open letter in a number of South African newspapers with the title “For a New Era of China-South African Friendship”. (you can read the full letter below.)

But there are a few of comments that I need to make regarding the contents of this letter.

-The letter asks for improved cooperation and friendship between China and South Africa in various sectors such as education, finance, tourism, infrastructure etc. Although the letter in general is quite positive, there are a couple of negative issues that needs to be highlighted. For example; it gives only one specific example of industry ‘collaboration’ indicating that this specific industry is really important to China.

“Traditional Chinese medicine [TCM] companies are actively exploring the South African market, introducing acupuncture, cupping and other traditional Chinese therapies to the South African people as a new option to treat illnesses and keep fit. Chinese volunteers have mobilized Chinese companies and Chinese communities in South Africa to partner with local animal conservation organizations and make their contribution to wildlife protection in Africa. These are all powerful examples of China-South Africa and China-Africa friendship.”

Real collaboration should focus on working together to tackle pressing healthcare problems in both countries (or for that matter, in all five BRICS countries) by promoting modern healthcare, improving accessibility and affordability, funding education and research, etc. and together striving to become world leaders in modern healthcare. We are talking about almost half the worlds population, so what better platform to tackle  global healthcare issues.

So, the above statement is not about collaboration but rather about forcing an ancient and thoroughly debunked healthcare system based on pseudoscientific principles onto Africa (and other BRICS countries) for the sake of expanding the export market of Chinese TCM companies. Apparently, these companies (or the TCM industry) are too big to fail and hence the decision was made not to wind it down over time, but rather to promote and internationalise it – for whatever logic that makes. Adding that there is collaboration in wildlife protection is in my view a bit of a joke, but I guess some people will consider this to be a sincere gesture (well, the dehorned Rhino in our local zoo is funded by the Chinese embassy, for what it’s worth).

A very effective way of making TCM acceptable, or even wanted, in South Africa is by using the strategy of anti-colonialism or even racism (a very clever, but unethical, marketing strategy in SA); “Our peoples forged a deep friendship during our common struggle against imperialism, colonialism and racism.” Indirectly implying that modern healthcare is an invention of the imperialist West and an acceptable alternative therefore is of course TCM. Hence the phrase “… as a new option to treat illnesses and keep fit.” The fact that TCM is by and large ineffective, based on ancient debunked principles, and sometimes extremely dangerous, is obviously not mentioned.

TCM is unfortunately part of how China (or rather the Chinese Communist Party) wants to exert soft power globally and expand its massive TCM industry (currently worth roughly $170 billion). I have written about how they achieved this in Australia and it seems to me that the Australian model (you can read about it here, here and here) will now be implemented in Africa via South Africa. Unfortunately, my efforts in Australia went unnoticed with not a single politician or regulator batting an eyelid in regard to the dangers that TCM poses to global healthcare and wildlife – I might however have been too late to influence the process.

Collaboration between countries works best when there is mutual trust, something that President Xi Jinping also mentions in his letter “We must steadily elevate our political mutual trust to new levels”.  Now, how can you build trust when one country wants to dump fake medicines and treatments on another country? I just don’t see that happening.

We in South Africa do not want to start slapping each other to cure diabetes, or use rhino horn (or start skinning our donkeys, use lion bones etc) to ‘cure’ disease. Because once you start promoting these things as being effective medical treatments, before you know it, we might even start to stick needles into each other to influence the flow of Chi through meridians. This is how a society return to the dark ages of healthcare, and definitely not something that you wish upon your friends, or how you build trust between countries. We would far rather collaborate with China on improving and modernising healthcare in both countries. For what it’s worth, let’s put the wellbeing of society before profits.

Full text of Chinese President Xi’s signed article on South African media

2018/07/22

Chinese President Xi Jinping on July 22 published a signed article titled “For a New Era of China-South Africa Friendship” on three South African newspapers, namely, The Sunday Independent, Sunday Tribune and Weekend Argus, ahead of his state visit to the African country.

The following is the full text of the article:

For a New Era of China-South Africa Friendship

Xi Jinping

President of the People’s Republic of China

It gives me great pleasure to pay my third state visit to the Republic of South Africa and attend the 10th BRICS Summit at the invitation of President Cyril Ramaphosa. I am full of expectations as I am about to set foot again on the beautiful land of South Africa, the rainbow nation standing at the convergence of the Indian and Atlantic Oceans, and home to unique and magnificent landscapes, industrious and enterprising people, and colorful and pluralistic cultures.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of diplomatic ties between our two countries, but the friendly interactions between our peoples go far beyond that. Our peoples forged a deep friendship during our common struggle against imperialism, colonialism and racism. After the birth of a new South Africa, especially in the past 20 years of diplomatic relations, our two countries have supported and learned from each other in our respective exploration of a development path suited to national conditions. This relationship has stood the test of time and a changing international environment. From a partnership to a strategic partnership, and then to a comprehensive strategic partnership, this relationship has made big strides and demonstrated a strong growth momentum in political trust, economic and trade cooperation, people-to-people exchanges and strategic coordination.

Over the past six years, our two countries have worked closely as co-chairs of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) to advance the comprehensive strategic and cooperative partnership between China and Africa. Our bilateral ties have thus served as a model for China-Africa relations, for South-South cooperation, and for unity and cooperation among emerging market countries, and offered valuable experience for building an even stronger community with a shared future between China and Africa and a new type of international relations featuring mutual respect, fairness and justice, and win-win cooperation.

We enjoy close high-level exchanges and fruitful practical cooperation across the board. Our leaders have, through frequent mutual visits, meetings and other exchanges, provided top-level and strategic guidance for the bilateral ties. China has been South Africa’s largest trading partner for nine years in a row, and South Africa has become China’s largest trading partner in Africa. Two-way trade totaled 39.17 billion U.S. dollars in 2017, more than 20 times the figure at the start of our diplomatic engagement. Preliminary statistics show that China’s direct investment in South Africa has grown by more than 80 times and exceeded 10.2 billion U.S. dollars in cumulative terms, creating tens of thousands of jobs for local communities and giving a strong boost to the South African economy. Many Chinese companies are running successful businesses in South Africa, which is a full testament to our mutually beneficial relationship for common development. South African companies, for their part, are also making great success in China.

In recent years, measures such as hosting the Year of China/South Africa and launching the High-Level People-to-People Exchange Mechanism have brought our two peoples even closer with greater mutual understanding and friendship. We have seen expanding cooperation in such areas as education, culture, science and technology, and health, and growing exchanges between our youths and women. South Africa has attracted more Chinese tourists, established sister relations with more Chinese provinces and cities, and opened more Confucius Institutes and classrooms than any other Sub-Saharan country. China has become an increasingly popular destination for South African students and tourists. Traditional Chinese medicine companies are actively exploring the South African market, introducing acupuncture, cupping and other traditional Chinese therapies to the South African people as a new option to treat illnesses and keep fit. Chinese volunteers have mobilized Chinese companies and Chinese communities in South Africa to partner with local animal conservation organizations and make their contribution to wildlife protection in Africa. These are all powerful examples of China-South Africa and China-Africa friendship.

South Africa is now on a new journey of national development. President Ramaphosa has put forth the goals of growing the economy, creating jobs, improving people’s lives and advancing social transformation, thereby ushering South Africa into a new era of hope and confidence. China looks forward to working with South Africa to build on the momentum of the 20th anniversary of diplomatic ties and strive for faster and greater progress in our comprehensive strategic partnership.

– We must steadily elevate our political mutual trust to new levels. We need to maintain high-level exchanges, strengthen inter-party cooperation and governance experience sharing, continue to provide each other with mutual understanding and support on issues bearing on our respective core interests and major concerns, and stay forever as each other’s reliable good friend, good brother and good partner. I look forward to receiving President Ramaphosa in Beijing in September and co-chairing with him the FOCAC Beijing Summit.

– We must strive for new outcomes in our practical cooperation. We need to promote complementarity between our development strategies, and make full use of bilateral mechanisms, FOCAC, the Belt and Road Initiative, BRICS cooperation, and other platforms to deepen cooperation in key areas such as industries, production capacity, resources and energy, infrastructure, finance, tourism, and digital economy and deliver more benefits to our peoples.

– We must increase communication to add new impetus to our people-to-people exchanges. We need to leverage the role of the High-Level People-to-People Exchange Mechanism in enhancing communication between our peoples, expand cooperation in education, culture, science and technology, health, and sports, and promote exchanges between youths, women, think tanks and media outlets. Such measures will bring greater public support for China-South Africa friendship, and make our peoples be more closely connected.

– We must strengthen collaboration and scale new heights in our strategic coordination. We need to support each other in hosting the 2018 FOCAC Beijing Summit and the 10th BRICS Summit, step up coordination and cooperation within multilateral frameworks including the UN, the G20 and BRICS, and promote the reform of the global governance system in a joint effort to advance the fundamental interests of African and other developing countries, to build a new type of international relations and a community with a shared future for mankind, and to contribute wisdom and proposals to solving the world’s most pressing issues.

This year also marks the 10th anniversary of the BRICS Summit. Ten years on, BRICS cooperation has achieved remarkable development and gained an ever-growing influence. This year’s summit will be the first one held in the second “Golden Decade” of BRICS cooperation. China will go all out to support South Africa in hosting this event. Under the theme of “BRICS in Africa: Collaboration for Inclusive Growth and Shared Prosperity in the Fourth Industrial Revolution,” we will deepen BRICS strategic partnership, enhance BRICS solidarity and cooperation, and facilitate the inter-connected development of BRICS countries. We are confident that this summit will usher in an even brighter future for BRICS cooperation.

This year celebrates yet another important event, the 100th anniversary of Nelson Mandela, the inaugural president of the new South Africa. To quote Mr. Mandela, “The African rebirth is now more than an idea. Its seeds are being sown in the regional communities we are busy building and in the continent as a whole.” With unremitting efforts, South Africa and the rest of the African Continent gained a new life in the last century. I am confident that this century will witness the rejuvenation of South Africa and that of the whole African Continent. Let us work together for a new era of China-South Africa friendship.

China Power and Influence! Part 1: TCM and the Aussie Academics who sold their souls!

Is the Chinese Communist party currently exerting an influence on the Australian healthcare system? If so, how did they manage to get a foot in the door? Let’s have a look!

recent investigation by the award winning investigative journalism program, ‘Four Corners’, revealed that Chinese billionaires, with links to the Chinese communist party, have made substantial donations to various Australian politicians. Donations usually come with strings attached, and hence, there is some anxiety that this could have an impact on the Australian autonomy and international relations with historic partners (similar to Russia’s meddling with the US elections). The program also featured China’s influence at various academic campuses across Australia.

This prompted me to conduct my own investigation focusing on China’s influence, via these Chinese billionaires, on the Australian healthcare system. It is well known that China wants to internationalise their ancient, ineffective and dangerous traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). Australia could have, for example, decided to play a leading role and aid China in modernising their healthcare system in exchange for improved free trade arrangements – or anything that could have been mutually beneficial.  Unfortunately, a couple of Australian academics decided otherwise and made it extremely easy for China to obtain a strong foothold, with their TCM, in the Australian healthcare system.

This article will detail specifics regarding how these academics managed to get the job done, whilst a second article will describe how specific Australian politicians made all of this a walk in the park for China (all supporting documentation is available on request).  Please skip the next section if you understand TCM, but for those who don’t, below is some background information.

What is TCM and why is it so dangerous?

Imagine a healthcare system where no disease can be diagnosed and where the treatments on offer are mainly ineffective, while some are even outright dangerous. This is TCM in a nutshell; misdiagnosis by default and ineffective/dangerous treatments.  It is no wonder that many scientists are extremely concerned about the promotion and legitimisation, especially via universities, of TCM in Australia and around the world. A recent article in the Economist sums it up well; “State-sponsored quackery. China is ramping up its promotion of its ancient medical arts. That is dangerous for humans as well as rhinos”

To understand the issue at hand, here is one example;

The TCM nature of rhino horn is “salty, sour and cold” and hence its actions are to “clear heat, subdue Yang and cool blood, relieves fearfulness, detoxifying.” Rhino horn is therefore a treatment for “high fever, sun stroke, trauma, mania, convulsion, sore throat, epilepsy, febrile disease, infectious disease, macula, bad skin conditions, subcutaneous bleeding.” (rhino horn is in fact being promoted as medicine at Western Sydney University, but I believe for dementia. One of their collaborators was even sent to prison for importing rhino horn into Australia).

Some of these above mentioned conditions can be life-threatening, if left untreated. Because everybody knows that rhino horn is not an effective medicine for anything, prescribing and using it as a medicine, is equivalent to providing no treatment for these conditions. And this is indeed why TCM is dangerous for people, not even to speak about the needless slaughter of rhinos.

saddest-rhino-photo-yet-oscap-645x
It took this rhino calf a number of days to find its mother. Unfortunately the poachers got hold of her first -and all of this in order to fuel the insatiable and growing TCM market.

In TCM, disease is seen as an imbalance of a non-existent life-force (Chi) that flows through non-existent meridians, and in this pre-scientific world, bacteria, viruses, etc. do not exist.  By slapping yourself, or inserting needles (acupuncture), or taking herbs, or animal matter, your Chi will be ‘restored’ and you will be ‘cured’ of whatever ailment you might suffer from. Because TCM is a believe-based system, every treatment (and there are thousands) is believed to be effective for its intended purpose. This becomes very dangerous when this believe is so strong that they will advise patients to stop their conventional treatments, and rely solely on TCM. That this danger is real, was recently illustrated by the tragic death of a 6yo boy suffering from type-1 diabetes.

The fact that some herbs (very few) do contain beneficial compounds is, in effect, negated by the fact that TCM practitioners cannot correctly diagnose any medical condition. To try and ‘solve’ this problem, they will therefore prescribe a combination of up to 20 different herbs, because by doing this, it improves their chances of getting lucky! Most TCM proponents are fully aware of these problems, and therefore their current approach is to ‘integrate’ all of TCM with conventional diagnostics and treatments. They do this in order to continue to make money but also to promote TCM as ‘effective’ by piggy-backing on the successes of evidence-based modern healthcare.

So, yes, it is all about money with China trying to expand its $170 billion TCM industry by legitimising it in other countries. In Australia it turned out to be a very easy task, just ask the four blokes in the photo below. They have been warned, repeatedly, about the dangers of TCM, but apparently the big motivator, money, speaks louder than words.  So, this is where the Australian academics comes into play (more info regarding TCM can be found here and here).

Alan Benoussan Barney glover
FLTR: Proff. Alan Bensoussan (WSU), Barney Glover (WSU), Xu Anlong (BUCM) and Peter Shergold (WSU). Lobbying for political support of TCM at parliament house, Canberra (their trip paid for by the Aus public)

The Australian academics

One of the key players in Australia is Prof Alan Bensoussan, Director of the National Institute of Complementary Medicine (NICM), Western Sydney University (WSU). He completed a degree in physics and then, for some unknown reason, decided to continue with TCM. He studied at the Nanjing University of TCM in 1985/86, and this is where he was ‘converted’ or ‘recruited’ by the Chinese communist party.  And because Alan, like most people, cannot admit to have made a mistake, decided to continue down this path of pseudoscience. Once you are trapped, you are in it for life. And not only that, he became one of the biggest lobbyists of TCM in Australia. This is, of course, one way of ignoring your mistakes – you stubbornly continue to tell yourself, and everybody else, that you are right, even in the face of the most compelling scientific evidence! For Alan, TCM is an effective and safe healthcare system! Unfortunately, after 30 years of trying, he is not able to show that science was wrong about TCM, and hence, he still does not have anything to show for it (without cheating and misleading, that is).

But whatever happened, he became one of the biggest drivers of TCM in Australia. Since his return from China he has worked tirelessly to legitimise TCM with his main approach being; that the safety of patients will be assured by regulating TCM, and, that TCM should be ‘integrated’ within conventional healthcare. The fact that TCM is mainly ineffective and by regulating fake medicine, it can only lead to well-regulated fake medicine, didn’t bother him –  it simply doesn’t fit his delusion. Intense lobbying for many years resulted in TCM becoming a registered healthcare profession in Victoria in 2000, and Australia wide in 2012. Being ‘registered’, in this case, simply means that you must have a ‘real’ degree in fake medicine before you can practice fake medicine – how this will assure the safety of patients is beyond me! This was, however, a crucial turning point. Registering TCM as a ‘healthcare profession’ gave it an Australian government stamp of approval, and after this victory for TCM, everything went into top gear. Alan received a prestigious award for his intense lobbying in 2013 in the Great Hall of the People, Beijing China. This award was also celebrated at WSU and was attended by Eric Roozendaal, CEO of the Yuhu group (more about the YuHu group a bit later on).

Other prominent Australian academics are Prof Charlie Xue from RMIT university who runs an accredited (again a government stamp of approval!) course in TCM and chairs the ‘Chinese Medicine Board of Australia’. He is therefore in charge of registering TCM practitioners, and he has also received millions from China to promote TCM in Australia (see under current grants). The University of Technology Sydney (UTS) also provides accredited courses in TCM and has accepted millions in gifts from Chinese businessmen – donations and gifts always comes with strings attached.

The Chinese businessman

The Yuhu group is owned by Chinese billionaire, Huang Xiangmo, who featured prominently in the ABC’s Four Corners investigation. Huang Xiangmo is the president of the ‘Australian Council for the Promotion of the Peaceful Reunification of China’ – an organisation considered to be the vanguard of lobbying for the Chinese communist party in Australia. It turns out that they do not only influence Australian politics, but also the healthcare system. The Yuhu group has ‘committed’ a $10 million donation to Alan Bensoussan for the internationalisation of TCM in Australia. This large donation was eventually withdrawn by Yuhu, due to WSU’s inability to get the necessary paper work done in time (maybe too many bureaucrats working at WSU?). Huang Xiangmo did eventually donate $3.5 million, to establish the Australia-China Institute for Arts and Culture at WSU. Alan is named as a key researcher which demonstrates that TCM is considered to be part of Chinese ‘arts and culture’ and not an evidence-based healthcare system.

Huang Xiangmo
Mr Huang Xiangmo, seated, before signing the $3.5 million agreement. Prof Glover, left, is looking on in greedy anticipation, mumbling ‘sign it, sign it, sign it….’

In the NICMs latest newsletter (under ‘Message from Director’) they thank their generous sponsors, which includes Josephine and Gary Lam. Unfortunately the value of these donations are not publicly available, but, Josephine Lam has donated substantial amounts of money to WSU/NICM before. She is also currently acting as a ‘specialist advisor‘ to the Vice Chancellor, Barney Glover (he has also accompanied Alan to China to lobby for support of their Australian TCM facilities). The Lam’s are part of the ‘Australian China Economic, Trade and Culture Association’, with Gary Lam being the Chairman and Josephine a Honorary Advisor.  Huang Xiangmo, of the Yuhu group is also a patron of this organisation.

Dr Ven Tan, who is the ‘Standing Deputy Chairman’ in this organisation, and the founder of ‘Tasly Healthpac’ is an important role player, claiming that; ‘Through his own practice he has come to realize the limitation of conventional Western medicine and to worship the merit of Traditional Chinese Medicine’. The photo below depicts the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Chinese and Australian governments ‘aimed at promoting TCM in Australia through a collaborative initiative’. (Alan Bensoussan is on the far left and Ven Tan third from the left.) So, again we have a Chinese ‘cultural’ organisation that wants to promote TCM in Australia.

Ven Tan Photo

Another separate MoU was signed between Tasly and the NICM (Alan Bensoussan is the director of the NICM) in 2011, which states that the NICM will provide “assistance in the development of an Integrative Care Model: to assist the Tasly Healthpac Centre of Excellence in Integrative medicine so that its structure aims to integrate TCM and western medical diagnostics and treatments in an integrated, patient centred way.” Some might now recall that the tragic ‘slapping therapy’ death of a 6yo boy recently occurred at Tasly Healthpac.  This illustrates what happens when your objective is to ‘integrate’ fake treatments with evidence-based treatments.

The NICM’s gifts register indicates that a huge amount of effort goes into cosying up to Chinese politicians, businessmen and (TCM) academics. There are documents demonstrating that they are actively targeting and engaging with specific Chinese businessman (Huang Xiangmo, Chau Chak Wing, etc) known to have links with the Chinese communist party. WSU even planned to provide scholarships to the children of Chinese consular staff members. The response from the Chinese consulate was, of course, a very big thank you to Alan Bensoussan and Barney Glover, for their hard work in legitimising TCM in Australia. To think that all their visits to China, the hosting of Chinese delegates, the huge amount of time it takes to lobby all of these role-players (in China and Australia), even the gifts are partially paid for by the Australian public. So, what do the Australian public get in return for their investment? The promotion and integration of a dangerous fake healthcare system. And this brings me to the Australia-China Free Trade Agreement.

Barney Glover FTA
Prof Barney Glover, right, after signing the agreement. Obviously smiling, because this means a lot of money.

Australia-China Free Trade Agreement

Alan has managed to get TCM included at the signing of the free trade agreement (FTA) between Australia and China (called a ‘tragedy‘ by an eminent Australian scientist – I tend to agree!). This inclusion will allow WSU and the Chinese government managed ‘Beijing University of Chinese Medicine’ (BUCM), to be used as vehicles for the communist party’s agenda to exert its influence via TCM on the Australian healthcare system. And all of this facilitated by Alan for which he is handsomely rewarded by the Chinese government. The inclusion of TCM in the FTA has paid off, and has resulted in a TCM hospital that is currently being established in Westmead, Sydney – opening in 2018. The BUCM will operate this ‘integrative’ TCM facility and it will be based on a similar 80-bed hospital which the BUCM is already operating in Germany. According to documents, this facility will be commercial (run by the BUCM) and the NICM will co-occupy this space to further their (or the Chinese communists party’s) agenda regarding the continued legitimisation and internationalisation of TCM.

Conclusions

In short; Alan Bensoussan, Barney Glover, and others, are colluding with the Chinese communist party, and as such, is making it extremely easy for them to exert their (not so soft) power in Australia. TCM is part and parcel of the international influence that China wants to exert. It is unfortunate that China, who has made rapid advances in science and technology, decided to stick with TCM and not on collaboration with Australia regarding modern evidence-based healthcare. It is even more unfortunate that these Australian universities decided to sell their souls for the sake of Chinese money. The $170 billion TCM industry therefore seems to be the main motivator for both WSU and the Chinese government and not improved health outcomes for Australians. The saying ‘give them an inch and they’ll take a mile’ comes to mind, and I have to ask; where will it all end?

It is interesting to note that serious medical conditions e.g. cancer, are being targeted by the NICM in order to legitimise ineffective TCM. In the NICMs own words “… the press/media would be reluctant to take a negative line on initiatives that are targeted at oncology…” This sentence says it all.

My next article will provide more details on the FTA and the Australian politicians (especially Andrew Robb and Jullian Skinner) who were successfully lobbied by Alan, and who made all of this possible. All this information has been sent to WSU, about 2 months ago, but as usual, there seems to be no interest in the adverse impact that their actions will have on science, on education and on the health of the public (and the poor rhinos, of course).

(The ‘controversial’ book ‘Silent Invasion: China’s influence in Australia’ by Prof Clive Hamilton is also worth a read)

The Hogwarts School of Magic is actually in Australia! They even teach you how to ‘fly’ a broom (they really do).

And we thought that the ‘Hogwarts School of Magic’ only existed on the big screen. But, this type of school is actually real. There are quite a number of them currently operating in Australia, where bright-eyed, impressionable teenagers are taught how to manipulate energy fields in order to banish ‘evil spirits’ (or disease), and how to elevate out of their despondent earthly existence into an enchanted state of eternal health and happiness –  like flying for the first time on a broomstick (or smoking a joint). It will therefore come as no surprise, that the game of Quidditch, from the Harry Potter movies, is indeed being played at some of these modern schools of magic. The Tri-wizard cup was even won by Western Sydney University in 2013.  A real-life fantasy world.

Quidditch game

(Quiddich players ‘flying’ in attack formation on their Nimbus 2000 broomsticks)

But there is a problem!

To run around on a field with a broomstick between your legs is, I guess, okay, and not strange at all. It is good exercise, but you are not suddenly going to take off (at least not without a joint), because ‘strangely’ enough this only happens in the movies (or if you are completely stoned). So, for the rest of it, none of it is real – it is all a hoax. And this is now problematic, because all parents would agree that we want the best education for our children. But this is also where we tend to stop our involvement and we do not always ask the important question of; what is actually being taught at these schools? There are many reasons for this, one of them being that we tend to trust that government will protect us from fraudsters. So, when these schools are government funded and regulated, and especially, when they provide them with a stamp of approval via various accreditation schemes, this is usually enough to put our minds at ease – we  trust the system!

Unfortunately, some of these schools provide government accredited courses in magic. For example; children are being taught to manipulate ‘energy’, yes, without a wand (although I am not always so sure), but with the use of needles, crystals and various herbs such as the screaming mandrake (oh no wait, that was in the movie).

 

Specific examples of these courses include; Bachelor in Chinese medicine, chiropractic and osteopathy at RMIT University, Bachelor of Health Science (Naturopathy – includes homeopathy) at Endeavour College, Bachelor of traditional Chinese medicine at Western Sydney University and Bachelor of Health Science in traditional Chinese medicine at the University of Technology Sydney. The Southern School of Natural Therapies explains that their accredited course in Chinese Medicine; “is an ancient, holistic form of medicine that connects the mind, body, spirit. Chinese medicine believes that the body is made up of Qi – energy which permeates the whole body and flows through our meridians. Chinese medicine aims to stimulate the meridians, producing effects on different organs and systems within the body to restore balance and harmony” – this is pure magic!

This is what our kids are being taught at these schools, and unfortunately, this is pure fantasy because this ‘energy’, which is at the foundation of all of these pseudoscientific healthcare systems, simply do not exist. But, this ‘energy’ do indeed attract large numbers of students, because all of us are fascinated by magic. Regrettably, those students who actually believe in the magic show, tends to pay a significant amount of money to learn ‘magic’, and once they realise that it’s an elaborate government supported hoax, many simply tend to continue practicing magic. Because, by now, they have incurred a lot of debt, they have lost a lot of time, and they don’t want to be branded a drop-out or loser (sure, there will also be true believers amongst them). Hence, the problem of modern day ‘medical magicians’ will continue to be with us and might even surge, if the government continue to legitimise it via their various accreditation schemes.

And this brings me to accreditation, which is arguably a big part of the problem. The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) recently invited submissions for their “Independent Review of Accreditation Systems within the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme for health professions”. The ‘Friends of Science in Medicine’ (FSM) organisation did submit a detailed report highlighting their many concerns when accreditation is given to these schools of magic. This report was unfortunately deemed ‘out of scope’ by the COAG Health Council which implies that they are quite happy to continue to mislead students and their parents (and this can destroy families), as well as the patients who are on the receiving end of these completely ineffective magical treatments. Many patients do indeed get hurt and some even die, as was tragically illustrated by a practitioner whose magical ‘Slapping Therapy’ did not cure a 6yo boy from his type-1 diabetes.

Below you will find the Executive Summary of FSMs submission (with permission), and here you can find the full submission.  But the question remains; why do the government continue to bestow undue credibility and continue to legitimise ‘medical magic’ by providing accreditation to these courses in Australia?

“Executive Summary

Accreditation is antecedent to, and inextricably bound together with, practitioner registration. This submission raises concerns about registered alternative medicine (AltMed) practitioners, accusing the present accreditation system of failing to protect the public through its legitimising poor quality, belief-based, rather than evidence-based, education and on-going training of chiropractors, osteopaths and Chinese medicine/acupuncturists.

FSM is aware that some higher education institutes and continuing professional development courses give credibility to pseudoscience. Examples of pseudoscience include chiropractic (subluxation theory, Kinesiology, Retained Neonatal Reflex and Webster Technique, osteopathy (Osteopathy of the Cranial Field and Visceral Manipulation) and Chinese Medicine (Acupuncture and the teaching of “Qi”, energy blockages that cause disease, as a fact).

FSM also remains concerned with the accreditation process supervised by AHPRA and its Boards.

FSM alleges that:

A. the training of registered AltMed practitioners:

  1. is of low quality;
  2. is based on pseudo-scientific concepts that reject germ theory as the cause of disease;
  3. teach invalid diagnostic technique;
  4. includes potentially dangerous interventions, continued in the ongoing training of practitioners;
  5. wastes considerable public funding allocated to universities which teach these unscientific courses; and
  6. compromises our universities’ reputation within Australia and internationally.

B. thousands of false and misleading claims on AltMed websites breach the National Law. This report demonstrates that registered AltMed practitioners:

  1. are poorly trained;
  2. are not competent to treat patients;
  3. delay correct diagnosis and evidence-based therapies thereby allowing progression of disorders;
  4. may cause harm;
  5. waste millions of health dollars;
  6. undermine the efforts of evidence-based practitioners in their communities;
  7. do not, in respect of exaggerated claims and advertising, behave in an ethical manner;
  8. create considerable confusion for patients with chronic ailments; and
  9. focus their ongoing training on building their practices rather than on the needs of patients.
  10. This report also raises concerns about pseudoscience-based courses, that may attract VET-help fees, such as reflexology, homeopathy, aromatherapy and reiki, that are advertised on Government websites.

C. Government websites are providing undeserved credibility for discredited AltMed.

Underserved credibility is given to discredited AltMed courses including Reflexology, Aromatherapy, Homeopathy, Naturopathy and Reiki that may attract VET-help fees and are advertised on Government training websites.

Using acupuncture as an example, along with valid research findings, informed opinions and advice from medical experts, this report investigates the teachings in one high-profile accredited course and the impact and costs of this intervention on health care. While this report focuses on acupuncture, the same concerns can be extrapolated to other domains of pseudo-science, which is in both accredited university and continuing professional development courses. It also recommends that the scope of practice of AltMed practitioners should be limited to what they can advertise, to further protect patients from invalid diagnosis and belief-based interventions.

While ALL unregistered AltMed practitioners are NOT practicing any form of evidence-based medicine, (reflexology, iridology etc), there are thousands of registered practitioners, bound by the National Law to practice care that is evidence-based, who are practicing pseudoscience. The scope of the recent NHMRC review of natural therapies EXCLUDED interventions offered by registered practitioners on the basis that consumer protection was available through the AHPRA scheme.

This report highlights the millions of health dollars wasted by the Government funding of AltMed teachings and practices. Nearly $220 million was spent on acupuncture, chiropractic and osteopathy through Medicare from July 2011 to June 2016.

AltMed practitioners, who reject evidence-based medicine and over-service patient with placebo interventions are not the ‘right people’ to address patient needs, now and in the future.”

‘And the Bent Spoon Award goes to…?’ The NICM nominated for the second year running!!

Reminiscent of Voldemort about to cast an evil spell, Prof Barney Glover (photo BL – resemblance is striking) is showing a packed auditorium his outstretched hand above which the mystical ‘life force’ or Chi hovers. Because no one, not even Barney, can see anything floating above his hand, Prof Alan Bensoussan (photo BR) comes to the rescue by explaining that if everyone just play along, and make as if they can see Chi, then they all stand to make a lot of money. His strenuous expression indicates that it is a hard sell, but he also knows that the money factor and quality of showmanship, usually attracts a crowd and also wins out over common sense. The photo on top is from Voldemort, the villain from the Harry Potter movies.  The reason why these three men looks so serious (excl. Voldemort because he is an actor, oh no, wait, all three are actors) is because they know damn well that what they are doing is ‘magic’. So, we are entering an era where all three these characters are real, or scientists should start to stand up for science!

In order to expose these ‘magicians’ and to create public awareness regarding their trickery, the Australian Skeptics Inc. annually presents the Bent Spoon Award for the top pseudoscientist of the year. It is in effect the Oscars for pseudoscientists, because both reward outstanding acting abilities. This year there are a number of nominees including the controversial National Institute of Complementary Medicine (NICM) hosted at Western Sydney University (WSU). Below is the full nomination:

Nominee: National Institute of Complementary Medicine and Western Sydney University

Nominated by: Australian Skeptics and others

Date: 20/09/2017

For continuing to promote unsupported and debunked ‘medical’ treatments, despite promises late last year, in response to a 2016 Bent Spoon nomination, that they are “intending to revise our website … and hope to address some of these issues you have raised”. It still promotes the following treatments under the Complementary Medicine banner: acupuncture, chiropractic, aromatherapy, naturopathy, spiritual healing, crystal therapy, reflexology, ‘energy therapies’ (reiki, qigong, electromagnetic field therapy), TCM, Ayurvedic medicine, anthroposophical medicine, healing touch, Rolfing, Feldenkrais, Alexander technique, and homeopathy. Secondly, NICM and UWS are nominated for planning to establish an on-campus TCM clinic for the general public.

Hopefully this year they will walk away with this coveted award, which is bestowed upon “the perpetrator of the most preposterous piece of paranormal or pseudo-scientific piffle.” In 2016, the NICM tried for some reason, but in vain, to remove their nomination, but their attempts backfired somewhat. You can read about their sorry attempts here. It is also notable that the 2016 nomination was done by one person, whilst the 2017 nomination was done by a group of people, indicating that more and more people are coming around to the fact that the NICM/WSU are indeed misleading the public.

Key people in this year’s nomination is again the director of the NICM, Prof Alan Bensoussan, and the Vice-Chancellor of WSU, Prof Barney Glover. Between these two men, they earn roughly $1.2 million AUD per year, dished out by the Australian public. In return for these vast sums of money, the Australian public are being misled into believing that all of the above therapies are useful, effective and safe. This is obviously not true as you can see in my previous article which dealt with the involvement of the NICM and WSU in the tragic case of the 6yo boy who died after attending a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) based ‘slapping therapy’ workshop in Sydney. By slapping yourself you supposedly influence the flow of Chi through meridians and hence you will be cured of disease. Unfortunately, this boy suffered from diabetes and because many people belief that Chi is real, he was taken off his medication during the workshop – a life-threatening scenario. Clearly the ‘treatments’ that the NICM promote is not only ineffective, but it can also be quite dangerous.

But let us look at Alan Bensoussan. As a registered acupuncturist and herbal Chinese medicine man, he obviously falls within the category of delusional ‘healthcare’ practitioners. Because his livelihood depends on it, he will continue his unwavering support of debunked treatments, even in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence that these ‘treatments’ simply does not work. Ineffective treatments is quite dangerous, not only to people, but to wildlife as well. In his delusional world, all TCM therapies are effective and hence he will happily go to court to act as a character witness for his business partner (another TCM practitioner) who was send to jail for importing Rhino horn, and other endangered animal material, into Australia. This was followed by promoting rhino horn as a life-saving medicine in a thesis, approved by Alan and WSU (2012). And quite recently (2017) the NICM even had a link on their website where consumers could find information regarding the life-saving properties of rhino horn, and I guess they could even buy it online (link has since been removed).  Everything works in his delusional world.

There are many more examples such as his continued support for debunked treatments such as homeopathy, acupuncture etc. but this award is not only for supporting these treatments, it is also the way in which they mislead the public. For example: they fail to declare their many  conflicts of interest on many of their research papers (scientific misconduct), they design their experiments in such a way that it almost always gives a positive result (A+B vs B trial design), and even if the result is negative they will promote it as a big positive on WSU’s news site, or on social media (scientific misconduct and intentionally misleading the public). They even misled the Australian Research Council (info obtained after 2.5 years under a Freedom of Information request) who gave them a ranking of five, which stands for ‘research quality well above world standard’ in their ‘Excellence of Research for Australia’ program.  With this fraudulently obtained ranking, they lobby, but also mislead; UK royalty, ministers, regulators, foreign governments (specifically China) etc. in order to invest more money in the NICM.

But they also use this ranking to try and crush any negative reports, such as their 2016 Bent Spoon nomination – and this is where the excellent acting comes into play. Here is an excerpt from Alan’s letter to the Australian Skeptics “NICM conducts itself with the highest degree of integrity, ethics, scientific enquiry and social responsibility. Our research is independent, peer-reviewed, and is published in highly reputable, world-leading journals. NICM has been evaluated by Australia’s leading scientists under the Excellence in Research for Australia scheme and received the highest ranking of 5 for two consecutive periods, representing research that is deemed well above world standard.” None of this is true, and yet they can write these things without blushing. Their acting ability is so good, that they do not only fool the public, they actually have the acting ability to fool themselves. Any actor that can immerse themselves into a role to a point where they become the character deserves an Oscar, or in this case a bent spoon.

As for Prof Barney Glover. Well, he was warned about all of this, by myself and others, that by supporting the modus operandi of the NICM and hence these debunked treatments, including TCM, people will needlessly get hurt or even die (the Slapping therapy is a case in point). Unfortunately, Barney and the rest of WSU management decided to ignore all of these warnings and is fully supportive, and protects, the NICM at a cost of >$2 million AUD per year. I guess if you can’t beat them, join them; so, Barney has been actively involved in lobbying the Australian public that Chi exists and he has opened the door for China to use Australians as guinea pigs for their unproven and disproven TCM therapies.  It is well known that China wants to internationalise TCM, and via Alan and Barney the Australian public will now have to bear the brunt of ineffective therapies. Here is an excellent article in the ‘Economist’, explaining the dangers of doing just this – the title says it all; “State-funded Quackery. China is ramping up its promotion of its ancient medical arts. That is dangerous for humans as well as rhinos.”

Armed with this knowledge, Barney visited China on a number of occasions and together with Alan managed to get TCM in the Free Trade Agreement signed between China and Australia. This has given the impetus for Chinese companies to export more of their disproven and unproven ‘medicines’ to Australia, and it forms the cornerstone of a new TCM facility that will be built in Sydney. This facility will be co-managed by the Beijing University of Chinese Medicine (BUCM) and because it needs to be profitable within a couple of years, implies that it will be operated like a commercial clinic or hospital.  In the NICM’s own words during a industry sponsors meeting, the NICM will “lead the modernisation and integration of Chinese Medicine in the West through the
development of an effective Integrative Medicine Facility or TCM Hospital.” The BUCM has managed to start a similar 81-bed ‘hospital’ in Germany and this will likely be the model on which the Sydney facility will be based. So much for ‘evidence-based’ treatments, where evidence that a treatment does more good than harm comes first, before you start selling it to the public. But in their delusional world, all of TCM, and for that matter all of complementary medicine, works – so why should they provide any evidence?  You only have to belief that it works, and that is it!

At the heart of all of this, as usual, is money. The millions that Barney, Alan and the NICM cost the Australian public has to be recovered somehow, and hence these two men decided to destroy science, scientific education and put the public’s health at risk by allowing WSU to become the ‘scientific’ façade of a very dubious, and dangerous, complementary medicine industry. In exchange, they are handsomely rewarded with very big donations towards their ‘research efforts’, or rather, promotional research. Here they received $10 million from Blackmores, here is $4 million from the highly controversial Jacka Foundation (links with anti-vaccination activists), not to mention the millions from other complementary medicine companies, including Chinese companies and investors.

The list of misleading and false claims and statements constantly flowing from the NICM is unfortunately so long that it will require a series of books to be written in order to cover everything. It is however, quite remarkable, how similar their modus operandi is to the notorious gangster, Al Capone, who also had a ‘good guy’ public image, but beneath the surface had a somewhat more  sinister nature.  But the sad thing is that nobody can seemingly do anything about this. As long as they are in a position of power and they manage to bring in this kind of money; rules, ethics and morals simply do not apply anymore. As further evidence of their extremely good acting abilities, here is the title of Voldemort’s, oh sorry,  Barney’s speech given at the National Press club (photo) “universities must stand up for facts and the truth – if we don’t, who will?” This is acting at its best, and in my view, deserving of the Bent Spoon award.

Unfortunately, if you fall for their trickery and you get hurt, then you will be all alone. The bureaucracy involved is extremely complex so the best thing to do is prevention. Stop believing that Chi is real, because it simply does not exist. Stop buying their products or using their treatments, and inform yourself and your family and friends about how these people play their sick game and what the dangers are regarding these ‘treatments’. ‘Friends of Science in Medicine’ provides valuable healthcare information as well as the website of Prof Edzard Ernst, where he discusses everything complementary medicine (what works and what doesn’t). If you are interested in receiving automatic updates regarding the NICM and what they are up to, you can always follow my BlogTwitter or connect on LinkedIn. Will keep you posted regarding the outcome of the 2017 Bent Spoon awards, and please, ‘Like’ and share this article – options below.

Conflicts of Interest: Is there a difference between Doctors and Acupuncturists turned researchers?

Some serious flaws in two acupuncture clinical trials, for the treatment of infertility and allergic rhinitis, were recently published on Prof Edzard Ernst’s blog. The overly positive way in which the researchers made their mostly negative results public was also of concern. Both these studies were published by the researcher of the year, Prof Caroline Smith, of the National Institute of Complementary Medicine (NICM), Australia. The stream of comments and discussions that followed made me think of another commonly overlooked aspect when it comes to acupuncture clinical trials. Conflict of interest! In both these studies the authors declared to have no conflicts of interest and in other similar studies by this author this also seems to be the case. The question can be asked; If you are a practicing acupuncturist conducting a clinical trial in acupuncture, isn’t that, by default, a serious conflict of interest? The intention of this article is not an in-depth discussion of what a conflict of interest is, but rather to compare medical doctors with acupuncturists turned researchers. Let me explain.

Some medical doctors (GPs, surgeons etc.) decide to leave their practice after practicing 10-20 years to become full time researchers (and visa versa). Universities accept these people with open arms because they bring with them a wealth of knowledge regarding the practical side of medicine and healthcare in general. They are thus seen as an asset to any medical research project including clinical trials. Can the same be said about an acupuncturist? They also bring with them years of experience and thus they should also be a major asset to any acupuncture clinical trial. But I am afraid not!

Why? Medical doctors have a multitude of tools (drugs, surgical procedures, diagnostic kits etc.) at their disposal to diagnose and treat all types of medical conditions. Yes, there is medical conditions that cannot be treated and to say nothing about the issue of misdiagnosis. But when will it now be a conflict of interest? When they publish a positive clinical trial of a specific medical intervention in which they have a vested interest. e.g owning shares in the company producing the medical intervention (financial interest) or if they have been staunch supporters of this intervention during their years of practice (emotional interest). Just imagine that you have been prescribing a specific intervention to hundreds of patients over a long period of time, and now you have to face them with a negative clinical trial result – that will be difficult. The former is easy to declare whilst the latter might be slightly more difficult.

Doctors also tend to focus on a specific disease e.g. cancer and will perform research with the existing tools at their disposal but also try to find new tools in order to improve the risk-benefit profile of the disease treatment. Thus, for a doctor there is the possibility that they might run into a conflict of interest but due to the multitude of medical interventions this is by no means a given.

What about acupuncture practitioners turned researchers? An acupuncturist only has one tool at their disposal to treat all medical conditions. I can hear them say; but we stick needles in different places and depths etc. depending on the medical condition! Yes, but the fact remains that they can only stick needles into people – and that is a single intervention. So is this a conflict of interest by default? I would argue, yes, it is like having a single drug, packaged differently or in different doses, to treat all medical conditions. If you have treated hundreds of patients for various medical conditions and now suddenly you publish a negative clinical trial, you will not only be red faced when you run into your former (current) patients – who paid for their treatment – they might even sue you for misleading them. As an acupuncturist you cannot allow acupuncture to be ineffective for a specific medical condition otherwise people might start to query the effectiveness, in general, of the only tool you have. And not only that, they might start to question the unscientific principles that acupuncture is based on! And this, no acupuncturist want and hence they will have a conflict of interest by default – no matter what medical condition they aim to treat.

Likewise, if you have been emotionally and financially invested in acupuncture as a cure-all for 10-20 years it will be very difficult, if not impossible, to publish a negative result. In addition, the acupuncture fraternity is a very tight knit community, where negative results are frowned upon because of vested interests – surely they will expel you from this community if you publish negative results and thereby question the only tool that they have?

Keeping the above in mind, how do acupuncture researchers go about conducting clinical trials? An example: Prof Smith and Bensoussan, both at the NICM, are currently registered as practicing acupuncturists. This means that they can legally practice acupuncture and because they have been active for decades they are also well known and respected in the acupuncture fraternity. It is unknown if they’re still actively practicing or maybe practicing part-time in someone else’s practice, or if they have a financial stake in their former or someone else’s practice. Based on the fact that they are still registered it can be expected that they have a current emotional and/or financial interest in the positive outcome of their acupuncture clinical trials.

Because of this inherent conflict of interest and due to the current strict clinical trial regulations, which makes it quite difficult (although not impossible) to fabricate or falsify data, they target the next best thing which is the design of their clinical trial e.g. the A+B versus B design. But it doesn’t stop there. As soon as the clinical trial give a neutral (and thus negative) result, which in their books doesn’t happen very often, the results will be inflated to make it sound positive (another example here). Why? because they must protect the single tool that they have, they must keep the acupuncture fraternity happy and they must protect themselves against potential lawsuits from former (current) patients or a decrease in patient numbers (and thus financial income). On top of that – how would the media and the public react to an acupuncture clinical trial if the lead researcher declare that they have their own acupuncture clinic?  Surely this is a conflict of interest and it must be declared as such?

So what is the main difference between a doctor and an acupuncturist? A doctor has a multitude of medical interventions and might have a conflict of interest – but this is not a given. An acupuncturist has one intervention only and therefore they have a conflict of interest by default –  this is a given and one which they never seem to declare!

Forthcoming attractions: Currently the biggest ever complementary medicine clinical trial in Australia is being conducted by Prof Smith. This large trial is looking at the effectiveness of acupuncture on IVF outcomes and was branded a waste of money in the media when the NHMRC announced that they granted $600k for this project. Question is; when they publish the (inevitably positive) results will they also declare to have a conflict of interest? For some reason, I strongly doubt it.

What can you do about all of this?

Unfortunately, if you fall for their trickery and you get hurt, then you will be all alone. The bureaucracy involved is extremely complex so the best thing to do is prevention. Stop buying their products or using their treatments, and inform yourself and your family and friends about how these people play their game and what the dangers are, regarding these ‘treatments’. ‘Friends of Science in Medicine’ provides valuable healthcare information as well as the website of Prof Edzard Ernst, where he discusses everything complementary medicine (what works and what doesn’t). If you are interested in receiving automatic updates regarding the NICM and what they are up to, you can always follow my Blog,  Twitter or connect on LinkedIn. Will keep you posted regarding the outcome of the 2017 Bent Spoon awards (the NICM has obviously been nominated), and please, ‘Like’ and share this article via FaceBook etc. – options below.