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.

Sydney medical practice sued over ‘Slapping Therapy’ death of diabetic boy – the first crack in this unholy alliance?

I have some great news, I’m not the guy in the photo! But seriously, who would do stuff like this? About a year ago I’ve written about the tragic death of a young boy at the hands of a ‘slapping therapy’ quack. This particular quack claimed (and still do) that by slapping yourself, or by being slapped by someone else, you will unblock your chi (life force, energy, whatever) that flows through meridians – this is the central tenet of what is collectively known as Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). So, by slapping yourself you will be cured of whatever medical problem you might have. It is truly bizarre to think that there are actually people that fall for this trickery, and even more bizarre to think that some people are so into it, that they will subject a sick helpless child to this strange form of fatal abuse.

So, the good news is that the slapping therapist, Hongchi Xiao, has been arrested and as far as I can tell, has been in and out of court over the last year or so – I truly hope that he will get a very long jail sentence. Now, something that I’ve been calling for is that the medical practice, which at the time was known as Tasly Healthpac, the university (Western Sydney University) and specifically the National Institute of Complementary Medicine (NICM), and to some degree the regulator (Therapeutic Goods Administration) should also be facing court – they are all involved in this, and unfortunately in many other similar practices (and to think that Dr Kerryn Phelps who is currently running as an independent in the all important Wentworth by-election is intricately involved with the NICM and their modus operandi – but more about this in a next article).

So, the even better news is that the parents of the victim have recently sued Tasly Healthpac and its director Dr Ven Tan.  It is not yet excellent news, because the NICM and the regulators are still getting away with it, but hopefully their day in court will come sooner rather than later.

I’ve copied the article published in the Sydney Morning Herald below. It is a very interesting article because is saying quite a lot. Thou should not hate, but oh boy, it is sometimes quite difficult not to develop a heartfelt hatred towards quacks and quackery. I’ll comment on just one aspect below the article.

Start of article

A Sydney couple is suing a medical practice over the death of their six-year-old son, who attended a “self-healing” course in its rooms and later died from insulin deprivation. But the practice claims the couple were already acolytes of the therapy, helped organise the course and were themselves to blame for the boy’s death.

Aidan Fenton, a Year 1 student from Prospect in Sydney’s west, fell unconscious in the Ritz Hotel, Hurstville, about 9pm on a Monday in April 2015 and could not be revived. Over the previous week, Aidan had participated in a treatment called Paidalajin, promoted and overseen by Chinese national Hongchi Xiao. The so-called therapy involves individuals stretching, fasting and slapping their skin to the point of bruising in order to “unblock meridians” in the body.

The five-day workshop was advertised by the Tasly Healthpac medical centre in Hurstville, which collected fees of $1800 from participants and provided Mr Xiao with rooms. Aidan’s father Jeff, mother Lily Pan and grandmother Guo Ying Yin have launched legal action against Mr Xiao, as well as the medical centre and its director, former Australian GP of the Year Chin Ven Tan.

According to a claim filed by the Fenton family to the NSW Supreme Court, Aidan was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes a year before he died. His mother registered him for Mr Xiao’s Paidalajin course, where she was allegedly told to cease his insulin doses as the therapy would cure his diabetes instead. Three days later, Aidan’s father was said to have questioned Mr Xiao and told that a deterioration in his son’s health “was an expected part of the Paidalajin treatment process.”

Aidan’s health deteriorated further. His family claims Mr Xiao said it was not necessary to take him to hospital and instead offered to care for the boy overnight at the Ritz Hotel, near the treatment centre. His grandmother remained with him as his condition worsened and he lost consciousness.

The family say Mr Xiao, the practice and Dr Ven Tan all failed to act in accordance with their duties of care. “The cessation of administration of insulin to Aidan Fenton from 22 April 2015 was a necessary condition of his death,” the legal claim said.

Dr Ven Tan and his medical practice have denied responsibility in their defences, arguing it was the Fenton family who behaved negligently in treating the workshop as medical advice.

They said Mr Fenton and his wife personally delivered four “custom-made Paidalajin stretching benches” to the medical practice in the days before the course, equipment that the couple had purchased from Mr Xiao’s Australian representative. The couple were “co-organisers of the workshop and/or [Mr Xiao’s] own staff, volunteer and/or followers who participated in the organisation of the workshop,” the defences state.

Ms Pan allegedly signed a registration form containing a warning in English and Chinese that people with severe health problems should not participate in the course and that nothing taught in it should be a substitute for medical advice. Mr Xiao has not filed a defence. At a brief hearing on Wednesday, the matter was adjourned to next year.

End of article

I’ve said it many times before, that a quack will almost never criticise a specific complementary medicine, because as soon as they do so, they highlight the fact that the principles upon which their ‘medicine’ or ‘treatment’ are based, is fake. And this is of course a problem, because all of their medicines and treatments, albeit homeopathy, TCM, chiropractic etc, are based on the same (fake) principles. Destroy the foundation of one and the whole house of cards collapse, and this is why they will always remain quiet about it.

Dr Ven Tan, who now luckily has been sued, had a wonderful opportunity to sincerely apologise for hosting this workshop and to warn the public about the dangers of  slapping therapy (and many other quack therapies doing the rounds). And of course, he could’ve explained why this therapy is built on fake principles. Why would he want to do this? Because he cares about your health!! Warn the public then!!! But no, as a true quack not a single word of warning, rather a somewhat brutal attack on the victim’s parents (the parents do indeed also carry part of the blame).  And this is so typical of quacks. Things go wrong, more often than most people would like, and then it is as if they tell the victims that it’s due to their own stupidity that they have fallen for their quackery. You know, please don’t blame the quack.

And that is how it goes in the strange world of quackery. And to think that those guys who are still getting away with it, has in the meantime cooperated with the Chinese Communist party to establish a TCM hospital in Sydney from where they can further internationalise TCM, in all its forms – and all of this just for money (lots of it). You can read about this unfolding tragedy here, here, here and here.

I truly hope that the NICM and the TGA will also one day face court because they are the ones giving credibility to these fake and dangerous healthcare options. But then again, they are so connected that they can squash anything.

China Power and Influence! Part 2. TCM and the role of the Australian (prime) ministers.

In part 1 I’ve shown that a number of key Australian ‘academics’ (Proff Alan Bensoussan, Charlie Xue etc.) made it extremely easy for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to achieve their goal of internationalising TCM. Prof Bensoussan (an acupuncturist) has managed to achieve statutory regulation for TCM practitioners in 2012, elevating TCM to the same level as conventional healthcare. He used this ‘achievement’ to successfully lobby for TCM’s inclusion in the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between Australia and China.. To lobby is one thing, but to do so successfully, you need receptive high level politicians in order to achieve your objectives. This article will highlight the involvement of various politicians, but also the regulators, and how Prof Bensoussan managed to get their support. (The ‘controversial’ book ‘Silent Invasion: China’s influence in Australia’ by Prof Clive Hamilton is also worth a read)

The ‘Four Corners’ investigation

An investigation by the ABC’s ‘Four Corners’ exposed the CCP’s secret networks in Australia. They disclosed that certain Chinese billionaires with links to the CCP, donated substantial amounts of money to various political parties. This led to some politicians changing their views, quite notably Mr Sam Dastyari, against party line on Australian foreign policy – specifically regarding the South China sea melting pot (new recordings was revealed today). In light of these revelations a senator stepped down, or is about to step down, but it also elicited a scathing response from the former premier of NSW, Bob Carr. He tried to downplay this, in his view, ‘perceived’ Chinese influence and argued that this might instead be a golden opportunity for Australia. Problem is that; “Bob Carr is the director of the Australia China Relations Institute (ACRI) at the University of Technology Sydney. ACRI was setup with a $1.8m donation from Xiangmo Huang who is one of the two Chinese donors who were the subject of the Four Corners expose Bob Carr seeks to downplay in this article.”

Bob Carr Huang Xiangmo
Mr Bob Carr (left) and Mr Huang Xiangmo (right) the funder of the Australia China Relations Institute hosted at the University of Technology Sydney.

Mr Xiangmo Huang and Mr Chau Chak Wing, named in the Four Corners investigation, have also been pumping millions of dollars into some Australian universities, quite notably Western Sydney University (WSU), University of Technology Sydney (UTS – Bob Carr heads the ACRI at UTS), and to some degree, RMIT university. It therefore stands to reason that the CCP also wants to exert an influence on the Australian academic and healthcare systems.  Part of this influence involves the internationalisation of an ancient pseudoscientific and mainly ineffective healthcare system, known as TCM. TCM is not an evidence-based healthcare system, but is nonetheless a very large and lucrative industry ($170 billion).

By using internationally accepted scientific methods will lead to a reduction in the total number of TCM treatments, currently estimated at 13 000, to only a handful. Hence, the big money is in the ‘magic’ (or mysticism) in which all 13 000 treatments remains effective. A public belief in this magic has therefore to be nurtured, which will lead to  widespread acceptance of TCM in Australia and expansion of the industry via Australia. Take the magic away (by applying science) and the whole industry will collapse – and this is not what the CCP nor Prof Bensoussan wants. Part of getting the job done is to target Australian politicians for support of TCM, and as such, why not start with the man with the top job? (for background information part 1 should be read and more information regarding TCM can be found here and here).

Mr Tony Abbott (former Prime Mister & Minister of Health)

Tony Abbott Huang Xiangmo
Mr Tony Abbott (left) and Mr Huang Xiangmo (right). The fist pump from the unknown man in the middle is for unknown reasons.

Quite recently Mr Tony Abbott attended “the launch of Chinese-born businessman Tao Li’s sheep ­placenta enriched skincare cream, Chantelle. On stage, Mr Abbott spoke of his longstanding support for the Chinese community and business in Australia, as he spruiked the merits of initiatives such as the China-Australia free-trade agreement…..” Clearly Mr Abbott has a thing for the strange and weird and does not seem to hold science, or consumer protection, in high esteem. But let’s have a closer look at Mr Abbott’s role in TCM.

In 2007, the then Minister of Health, Mr Abbott, was approached by a TCM practitioner proclaiming that he needs $4 million in order to provide the Australian public with the ‘correct’ information regarding TCM and complementary medicines in general. Mr Abbott ignored the fact that TCM is a dangerous pseudoscientific healthcare system, and that its practitioners will always promote all of it, because their livelihoods depend on it.

Unfortunately, Mr Abbott did not show him the door, no, he decided to place his trust in an acupuncturist (Prof Bensoussan) and handed him a $4 million cheque. This money was used as seed funding for the NICM. Regular readers will know that the NICM accepts money from homeopaths, acupuncturists, energy healers etc. and in exchange they use their university setting (Western Sydney University – WSU) to provide credibility and unbridled support for these thoroughly debunked complementary medicines (this is also the reason why the NICM won the Bent Spoon award in 2017.)

Alan Bensoussan Nongs clinic
The acupuncturist in question Prof Alan Bensoussan (second from the right) at the opening ceremony of another TCM clinic (Nong’s clinic) in Sydney. In the window some of the services on offer can be seen.

A tumultuous political period propelled Mr Abbott into the PM seat. It started when PM Kevin Rudd was stabbed in the back (2010) by his deputy, Julia Gillard, who became the first female PM. She was dethroned by Mr Rudd in 2013, who promptly lost the elections a couple of months later to Mr Abbott. Mr Abbott was in turn stabbed in the back by Mr Turnbull in 2015.  Five PM’s in five years, and although quite entertaining, an excellent opportunity for foreign powers to try and exert their influence during such a period of instability. So, while the politicians were grabbling to try and stay in power and solving artificial first world problems, the CCP steadily exerted its influence with Prof Bensoussan taking his chances when Mr Abbott became PM in 2013.

Mr Abbott appointed Mr Andrew Robb as minister of Trade in 2013, and tasked him with getting the FTA done and dusted. Having a PM who is clearly in favour of ineffective complementary medicines, including TCM, it should come as no surprise that Mr Robb accepted Prof Bensoussan’s word and included TCM in the FTA (more about Mr Robb a bit later on). After signing the FTA,  Mr Abbott also publicly defended part of the deal, which states that; ‘up to 1800 visas for Chinese service suppliers to enter Australia for up to 4 years, the visas will be for Traditional Chinese medicine practitioners, Chinese chefs, and Chinese Language coaches.’  Mr Abbott also send a congratulatory note to WSU when the NICM opened a Chinese Medicine Centre in 2016, with their objective being; “….spreading Chinese medicine further to the world.”

Barney Glover FTA
f.l.t.r. Prof Xu Anlong, President Xi Jinping, PM Tony Abbott and Prof Barney Glover at the signing of the Free Trade Agreement.

Although all four PM’s had contact with Mr Huang Xiangmo, quite recently (June 2017) it came to light that Mr Abbott has been warned in 2015 by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) about the possible influence that the CCP wants to exert; “A key political fundraiser for former prime minister Tony Abbott has maintained contact with Chinese Communist Party-aligned businessman Huang Xiangmo, despite warnings from ASIO to Mr Abbott about the billionaire donor. In 2015, Mr Abbott was briefed by ASIO chief Duncan Lewis about the agency’s concerns that Mr Huang’s close ties with the Chinese Communist Party might mean his donations could be used to advance Beijing’s interests.”

Pms with Huang Xiang mo
A collage showing the different PMs accompanied by Mr Huang Xiangmo

Internationalisation of TCM is of interest to the CCP and Prof Bensoussan, and I would suggest that the CCP was quite successful in achieving this objective in Australia! More information regarding Mr Huang Xiangmo and his involvement with TCM can be found in part 1.

But what about the current PM, Mr Malcolm Turnbull?

Well, what can I say. He promotes TCM by using it! Mr Turnbull publicly claimed that a TCM practitioner ‘helped’ him to lose weight. It becomes ridiculous when you look at the TCM treatment itself. It included Chinese herbal tea (price tag $5000) and, wait for it, fasting! I am not sure why, but I do feel the need to explain this phenomena for the uninformed (including some PMs). When you fast, you lose weight! The herbs and abdominal acupuncture has nothing to do with it!

This is an excellent example of how these pseudoscientists operate. They give good advice (balanced diet, exercise etc. which every GP will also give you) and then they claim that TCM is (partly) responsible for the observed effect. This is what they want you to think. And, of course, they want you to market their treatments by word of mouth, especially when you are the PM. It is a pity that an influential person such as Mr Turnbull can be hoodwinked this easily. After his endorsement of TCM, this particular practitioner is making a lot of money and is opening more TCM clinics in Australia where he treats anything from toothache to cancer. I fear that by providing his endorsement the PM has inadvertently signed the death warrant for people who suffer from serious medical conditions who might now decide, based on the PMs word, to give TCM a go instead of evidence-based treatments. (In 2017, this practitioner was found guilty of “unsatisfactory professional conduct” in an unrelated case.)

So, we have two PMs who is clearly pro-TCM. This, of course, makes life for the CCP and people such as Prof Bensoussan a lot easier.

The Minister of Trade, Mr Andrew Robb

As mentioned before, a key person in the FTA was the Trade minister, Mr Andrew Robb. He encouraged states and territories to sell and lease their assets, and also defended the lease of Port Darwin to the Chinese company, ‘Landbridge’. It did raise a number of eyebrows when Mr Robb resigned from politics shortly afterwards in favour of; “the $73,000-a-month retainer that former federal trade minister Andrew Robb has snaffled from the well-connected Chinese billionaire who bought the Port of Darwin.” Although within the rules, Mr Robb should definitely not expect a ‘Australian of the Year’ nomination anytime soon.  Mr Robb was however a primary target for Prof Bensoussan.

A document was prepared by Prof Bensoussan for Marcus Blackmore, the founder of the controversial supplement company Blackmores. This document contains a list of Australian politicians who they should lobby together in order to get political support for ineffective complementary medicines, including TCM. China is a very big export market for companies such as Blackmores, hence their collaboration with the NICM with their high profile Chinese connections (Blackmores  recently donated $10 million to the NICM to assist in ‘integrating’ ineffective treatments (incl. TCM) with effective treatments.) The two excerpts below make it clear that the NICM lobbied Austrade (Mr Robb) to include TCM in the FTA.

“Australia is currently working on a free trade agreement with China. On this basis Alan has held high level meetings with potential commercial partners in China.  China has pushed for the free flow of practitioners between Australia and China however, it is not likely they will get a free flow of products through. Alan has spoken to the VC and Hugh Funder from Austrade about regulations pertaining to a strong R&D platform under the free trade agreement. China has asked for a separate agreement to articulate the R&D platform. Andrew Robb is assisting NICM to pursue free trade with the support of the VC” (Sept 2014)

Andrew Robb signing FTA
Mr Andrew Robb (seated right) signing the free trade agreement

“The aim is to find a commercial partner or first choice commercial partner that will actively invest in NICM’s scaling up, through the development of a commercial platform for introducing Chinese medicine to western markets. Talks have been held with Austrade about the support they can provide in building a strong R&D platform with Chinese collaborators, including the possibility of progressing this as part of the Australia – China free trade agreement negotiations.” (Oct 2014)

Andreww Robb Huang Xiangmo
Mr Andrew Robb (middle) and Mr Huang Xiangmo (right)

It is no secret that China wants a free flow of TCM (practitioners and products) into Australia in order to expand their $170 billion TCM industry. Alan’s lobbying has paid off and Andrew Robb has written a letter to the Chinese Minister of Commerce which made Australia’s commitment to trade in TCM and complementary medicines very clear. A win-win for the bottom line of Chinese and Australian companies (such as Blackmores hence their partnership with the NICM), but a major step backwards for science, scientific education and research, and importantly, the health of the general public (I have recently emailed Mr Robb enquiring about TCM and if he was made aware by the NICM regarding the many dangers involved. A response was received from a secretary indicating that he retired from politics and that I should contact Austrade – a dead end I guess).

Promotion of TCM by other Australian politicians

Here is a media release by the then minister of education, Christopher Payne, heaping his praises on the NICM and the inclusion of TCM into the FTA, stating that; “Benefits to flow from the partnership include a new research-led Chinese medicine clinic in Sydney, better patient outcomes and the potential for Australia to tap into the $170 billion global traditional Chinese medicine market.” Here is a very interesting Hansard of the House of Representatives (Feb 2015 – pages 142-147) where a number of politicians – Mr Matheson (MacArthur), Mr Jones (Throsby), Mr Alexander (Bennelong), Mr Thistlethwaite (Kingsford Smith), Ms Scott (Lindsay), Mr Hayes (Fowler) – provides a very positive but one-sided view on the inclusion of TCM into the FTA.

It boils down to this; the NICM is excellent, TCM is the next big thing in healthcare, and we all stand to make a lot of money.  The fact that TCM is mainly ineffective, and therefore quite dangerous, does not seem to bother anyone, or at least, not a single politician understands the necessity to run this pass a couple of scientists first. And this can only mean one thing. All of these politicians have been spoon-fed with this misleading information, and now they pat each other on the back, and regurgitate this in front of a pro-TCM PM.

The Hansard makes it clear that the CCP will give (or has given) $20 million, via the Beijing University of Chinese Medicine, to the NICM in order for them to establish a joined commercial TCM ‘hospital’ in Sydney (they call it a clinic but it will be much more like a hospital if they get their way). The CCP therefore already has a strong foothold in the Australian healthcare system from where further incursions will probably take place.  Clues as to what the CCP wants to achieve can be found in China itself; ‘In July a law came into effect that requires local governments to open TCM departments in all general hospitals, and to give “equal emphasis” to TCM and what China calls Western medicine.’ With this kind of political support and with Prof Bensoussan as the main driving force in Australia this definitely does not bode well!

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA)

To have political support is always good but you also need the regulators on your side. Because Prof Bensoussan knows that TCM is mainly ineffective, he also knows that there will be a couple of hurdles to overcome. One of these hurdles is the regulators, in Australia, the TGA. To overcome this hurdle for the CCP and the TCM industry, a MOU was signed between the NICM and one of the biggest TCM producers in China, ‘Tong Rang Ten’ (Oct 2015). The focus of this MOU is on how the NICM will assist the company to get their products through the registration process in Australia.

To achieve all of this, Prof Bensoussan has been exerting his extensive influence at the TGA where he served for more than 10 years on the TGA’s ‘Expert Committee on Complementary Medicines.’ He even acted as Chair on this committee for a number of years.  Companies such as Tong Rang Ten is of course elated by Prof Bensoussan’s assistance and his hard work in getting TCM into the FTA, and through the regulators, stating;

I think with the implementation of the [FTA] agreement, many medicines, especially some important herbs, good-quality herbs, and those written in the Chinese herbal dictionary, will be approved by the Australian medicine authorities. As a result, we will have an increasingly wider road, and open more and more branch stores in Australia.”

 

Five elements Tong Ren Tang
The Five element relationships in Chinese medicine according to Tong Ren Tang

Prof Bensoussan was instrumental in misleading the TGA into accepting a ‘long tradition of use’ as a measure of safety (effectiveness seemingly does not matter). The results speak for itself with the TGA now excepting around 140 fake or pseudoscientific TCM ‘indications’ such as; “Harmonise middle burner (Spleen and Stomach)”, “Unblock/open/relax meridians”, “Balance Yin and Yang”.  If these draft indications are approved, you will be able to go to a pharmacy if you feel that your ‘meridians’ are blocked.

TCM is based on pseudoscientific principles, where no accurate diagnosis can be performed coupled with ineffective/dangerous treatments. It is such a pity that the leaders in society cannot come the this really simple conclusion and that the money aspect seems to blind them from the very obvious.

Final remarks

Most of the politicians named in this article has had links to Mr Huang Xiangmo, who in turn has links with the CCP. He has been pumping millions into Australian universities where Prof Bensoussan again acted as the man in the middle. It should be clear that this money has been influential regarding the promotion and growing acceptance of TCM in Australia. But what is fascinating is that the media seems to be reluctant to delve into this issue. I am no Trump supporter but one of the reasons might be that the media is not always as independent as claimed – they also have vested interests. For example. The ABC accepted an unknown amount of money from the controversial supplement company Swisse and in return Swisse gets; “exclusive advertising rights to reach 190 million people across Asia who can access online and television channels broadcast by Australia Plus.” Trade in Australian complementary medicines with China is also part of the FTA.

But I have to extend an olive branch to the politicians named in this article. No person can have expert knowledge of everything from medicine to global warning. You need expert advisors to fill the gap. The heart of the problem is when universities such as WSU hire pseudoscientists such as Prof Bensoussan. He now becomes an expert advisor and provide misleading information to just about everyone, including politicians. Sure, these politicians also have the responsibility to double check the information, but at the end of the day the blame should be on WSU for allowing this to happen (I have been warning them about this for almost 4 years now).

There is still some crucial information that is missing. What did the NICM tell all of these politicians in order for them to happily sign off on TCM? Mr Robb unfortunately does not want to reveal anything, but I do have some interesting information that was send to the former NSW minister of health, Jillian Skinner. In Part 3 I will describe this information which was, in all likelihood, also send to the politicians mentioned in this current article.

It is in effect a ‘tale of two letters’ with one letter warning the minister about the dangers of TCM (and the NICM’s modus operandi) whilst the second letter, written by the NICM, promoting TCM. No prizes for guessing which letter was the most convincing. In 2016 she was on her way to China accompanied by Prof Bensoussan and Dr Ven Tan (TCM practitioner and founder of Tasly Healthpac where the tragic ‘slapping therapy’ death occurred) to help Prof Bensoussan in lobbying for funding of his, and the CCP’s, big plans for TCM in Australia.

Death by ‘Slapping Therapy’. The role of the NICM, and others, in this tragedy.

It is always a terrible day when children die at the hands of fake medical practitioners or pseudoscientists. It is so unnecessary and preventable, and yet, it happens every day everywhere around the world. The proverbial snake-oil salesman is not a new phenomenon, it has always been with us, but it is becoming a global epidemic since some universities decided to elevate this type of quackery, to become state-funded and university-supported quackery. This turn of events lends undue credibility and legitimacy to these ineffective and dangerous ‘treatments’ and this translates into more people being fooled, while the snake-oil salesmen and those universities stand to make more money. It is always about money! But let’s have a look at how it works with the following tragic example, followed by some suggestions as to what you can do to help prevent these things from happening.

The controversial ‘Slapping Therapy’

This example involves a complementary therapy within the realm of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), called ‘slapping therapy’ or ‘Paidalajin’. A 6yo boy suffering from type-1 diabetes attended a slapping therapy workshop in Sydney with his parents, but sadly, the boy died in his hotel room shortly afterwards. Although the case is still before the courts, it is believed that he was deprived of medication and food during the workshop. The parents and grandmother have been arrested and faces manslaughter charges while the TCM practitioner, Hongchi Xiao, was only quite recently extradited from the UK, where another person died at one of his workshops. He was not granted bail and faces a maximum sentence of 25 years imprisonment.

But what is this ‘slapping therapy’, and why is it called controversial? It involves the flow of ‘energy’ or a ‘life force’ (chi) through channels (meridians) and by slapping yourself, or being slapped by someone else, you restore the flow of chi and your body starts to expel ‘toxins’. These toxins become visible when your skin turns red, and I guess, purple and blue, depending on how hard you are being hit. The theory was, therefore, that by slapping this boy he would be cured from diabetes, and this belief is so strong, that he was also taken off his medication – a life threatening scenario. But what does science say? Chi does not exist, meridians do not exist, diabetes cannot be cured and especially not by slapping, and the so-called toxins that your body expel are called bruising (the slapping injury causes tiny blood vessels to burst and the blood gets trapped below the skin’s surface, which causes a bruise). Just imagine how many people get hurt or die, due to TCM practitioners using chi, meridians etc. to diagnose and treat disease. Because it does not exist, they cannot really diagnose anything, and hence cannot effectively treat anything!

Here is a photo of the type of bruising that you can expect, posted as a testimonial from a cancer sufferer and devout follower of Master Xiao (I always wonder how many of these testimonials are real). In addition, if you hit a young child to a point of severe bruising it is called child abuse, but in the pseudoscientific world it is apparently called ‘self-healing’.

All of TCM is controversial, or none of it is!

If you promote TCM, in whatever shape or form, you also promote its underlying pseudoscientific principles. Let’s look at acupuncture; You insert needles at specific points (acupoints) that supposedly manipulate the flow of chi through meridians – and this, according to practitioners, cures disease! This acupuncturist (at Western Sydney University – WSU) recently published a case study where she reported that her patient did not recover after receiving an acupuncture treatment. What was her conclusion? “Despite this, I found that my confidence was undermined by being out of touch with my own inner knowing or Yi.” So, what is Yi? It is your intent (yi 意 ), and when your intentions (to cure disease) becomes permanent, then it becomes your will (zhi 志 ). In other words, acupuncture works and nobody should argue with that, the problem, this time, was that her intention for it to work were insufficient. Solution: believe more deeply!  And to think that this was part of the ‘science’ that was reviewed by the Australian Research Council in their Excellence of Research for Australia scheme, which they rewarded with the highest possible ranking (5) “evidence of outstanding performance well above world standard (something is rotten, but more about this in a next article).

But the same goes for herbal TCM, which also aims to manipulate the flow of chi through meridians. As described by ‘Prof’ Alan Bensoussan (director of the NICM at WSU) in a radio interview; “The first patient would receive acupunctural herbs that disperse the accumulation of energy, the second patient would receive acupunctural herbs that strengthen and tonify the low back. It’s a tool like this concept of circulation of energy, that actually allows the Chinese Medicine practitioner to distinguish these patients, and allows the Chinese Medicine practitioner to treat the patients in a way that the patient themselves may understand better,”.

Disease is therefore seen as an imbalance of a non-existent energy that flows through non-existent meridians, and the ‘slapping therapist’ makes use of these ‘fake’ principles to mislead people. In their strange world, bacteria, viruses, pancreatic cells secreting insulin etc. do not exist, but rather disease is caused by your chi clogging your meridians and hence slapping yourself, or inserting needles, or taking herbs, will unclog your meridians and you will be cured of whatever ailment you might suffer from. They are continuing, to this day, to promote these false and dangerous ideas to the Australian public. And again, it is dangerous because if you cannot diagnose a disease, you cannot effectively treat it. Any successful TCM treatment (some herbs might be effective) is therefore purely based on luck. Ever wondered why a TCM practitioner will prescribe a patient a combination of 10-20 different herbs? Because it improves their chances of getting lucky, but also amplifies the many risks, 20-fold.

This is why scientists call TCM, and the many other forms of complementary medicine, belief-based healthcare systems. You only have to believe hard enough that it works and that’s it, there are more than enough gullible people who will fall for your trickery. Sure, you get true believers (delusional) and unscrupulous people (criminals) that only make as if they belief, for the sake of misleading you and to make money out of you. If you fall for them, then, unfortunately, you are on your own. Master Xiao’s comments after his arrest? “This has nothing to do with the workshop. This boy had a lot of diseases, more than we ever know.” It is never their fault.

But now a very unfortunate death has occurred, which means that many of the important role players in this tragedy will disavow the slapping therapy ‘treatment’ in order to absolve themselves of responsibility and to stay out of the news. They do not accept any negative reports because it tends to clash with their Yi and Zhi. And hence they continue to promote acupuncture and TCM, even though many deaths have occurred as a direct result of acupuncture and even more due to herbal TCM remedies. And to think that most deaths, by far, occur as an indirect result after using these pseudoscientific therapies by neglecting a treatable or manageable medical condition, such as malaria or diabetes. The total number of deaths? Nobody knows.

Either all of the above therapies and treatments are controversial and should be stopped, or none of it is. I am fully supportive of the former, but those ‘open-minded’ people whose brains have fallen out, albeit delusional or criminal people, will obviously choose the latter and they will continue to make money out of the misfortunes of others. And with the current support of some universities, this problem will only get bigger.

Who is now really to blame for these tragic events? The role of Tasly Healthpac and the NICM.

No real doctor or scientist or any decent person with ethics and morals would allow a slapping therapist to give a workshop on their premises. Especially not to children suffering from serious medical conditions. What you should do, especially if you are an evidence-based healthcare practitioner, is to explain to this person that what he does is dangerous and that he should please stop doing it. And then you report him to the police. But this did not happen. So, the workshop was held at the ‘Tasly Healthpac Centre of Excellence in Integrative Medicine’. According to a Tasly spokesperson, the slapping therapist “Mr Xiao rented a room from our centre to conduct what was described to us as a series of health seminars. The boy and his mother were participants in the seminar.” Apparently, they did not know about the slapping therapy, but is this true?

It is telling that Tasly have deleted their website or they have changed their name to Medicentral, where they continue to provide TCM and acupuncture alongside conventional treatments. No information can be found on their new website regarding the workshop, but from the internet archives, it is clear that they themselves advertised this workshop. Their old website received up to 538 daily visitors, and hence their marketing efforts via their website reached many people in Australia (I would not be surprised if the parents of the deceased became aware of this workshop via Tasly’s website). On Master Xiao’s website he also states that his workshop was co-organised by an Australian medical institution. Therefore, Tasly’s statement is false. Slapping, acupuncture, herbal TCM – it is all the same thing, and that is why they allowed this workshop to be held on their premises.

A key person at Tasly is the founder, Dr Ven Tan, who started the practice more than 20 years ago and ‘through his own practice he has come to realise the limitations of conventional Western medicine and to worship the merit of Traditional Chinese Medicine’. Having a well-established practice and making statements such as above will draw the attention of pseudoscientists at some Australian Universities. WSU in Sydney (and they are by no means the only Australian university who have decided to put money before science and ethics) used public money to convert TCM practitioners into ‘Professors’ and hence, it is to be expected that they will seek funding from, or collaborate with Tasly in exchange for providing extra credibility and legitimacy for Tasly’s pseudoscientific services. ‘Integrating’ TCM with conventional therapies, with the involvement of WSU, creates trust and a sense of security in patients that all of the provided services at Tasly’s are underpinned by science, and thus more and more people will be misled.

Here (second photo on the left) is the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Chinese and Australian governments ‘aimed at promoting TCM in Australia through a collaborative initiative’ witnessed by Dr Ven Tan (Tasly) and Prof Alan Bensoussan (NICM at WSU). Another MoU was signed between Tasly and 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.” The result of doing just that, speaks tragically for itself.

It is well known that the Chinese government wants to internationalise TCM, it is, after all, a $170 billion industry. An excellent article about this issue, a real eye-opener, was recently published in the Economist “State-funded Quackery. China is ramping up its promotion of its ancient medical arts. That is dangerous for humans as well as rhinos.” The NICM has played a crucial role in the national registration of TCM practitioners in 2012, which elevated TCM to the same level as conventional healthcare, lending undue credibility to TCM. This extra legitimacy was used by the NICM to facilitate China’s plans for internationalisation of TCM via Australia. They lobbied various Ministers and managed to get TCM into the Australia-China Free Trade Agreement in 2015, shortly after the boy’s death from slapping. In 2016 a trade delegation of the Minister of Health (Jillian Skinner – now retired) visited China, accompanied by Dr Ven Tan and Prof Alan Bensoussan. Part of the mission was “To assist the University of Western Sydney’s National Institute of Complementary Medicine (NICM) secure investor and donor support for the NICM’s integrative Chinese medicine facility medicine/treatment on the Westmead Campus“.

Yes, they are building a large integrative TCM facility in Sydney, which will open in 2018. They will obviously sell this as a ‘research’ facility, but in truth, it will be operated like a commercial facility. All of this is good news for China, Tasly and the NICM, but it is definitely not good news for the Australian public.

Tasly and NICM should therefore also be held responsible for these tragic events.

The role of the regulator, the TGA, and the NICM’s influence

In Australia, this very important function to protect the public against the sort of quackery described above, is being done by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). Pseudoscientists also know that the TGA is a potential key hurdle that must be overcome. They therefore lobby intensely, and some infiltrate the TGA (Alan Bensoussan has served many years on the TGA panel for complementary medicines), where they actually managed to get the job done. Even though the golden rule is that you really do not need to be a pseudoscientist in order to know what pseudoscience is, or to adequately regulate it. And yet, there are a number of TCM practitioners currently involved with regulating TCM at the TGA.

The NICM, and others, have managed to convince the TGA that almost all of these products and services are ‘low risk’, meaning low direct risk. Unfortunately, the high indirect risk is being ignored. You are probably not going to die after being slapped, but if you stop taking your real medicine it can lead to your death (the possible cause of the boy’s death). And this is exactly what this slapping therapist says. Medicine is poison so let’s slap your medical condition out of you.  What is my evidence for the bold statement regarding the TGA? They recently published their draft list of ‘permitted indications’, or the ‘medical’ claim that manufacturers can make for their products. Included in this list is 140 TCM indications. For example: “Harmonise middle burner (Spleen and Stomach)”, “Unblock/open/relax meridians”, “Balance Yin and Yang”. When a regulator allows pseudoscientists a foot in the door, then the above is the only logical outcome and now the TGA accepts the notion that meridians, chi, Yin and Yang etc. is real. And here again, the NICM is assisting Chinese companies to help them get past the TGA bureaucracy in order for them to register and sell their products in Australia. Having a partner such as the NICM in Australia, obviously makes a lot of Chinese companies very happy. Shouldn’t the TGA also be blamed when people get hurt after using these pseudoscientific healthcare treatments?

In a nutshell. The bereaved parents of the deceased are in trouble, while the slapping therapist is in jail where he will hopefully stay for a long time. But what about Tasly’s which promoted and hosted this workshop as part of their integrative medicine approach, or the NICM who collaborated with this clinic and facilitated their ‘integrative’ approach and who promoted TCM for decades and probably have misled thousands of people over the years, or the regulators who have opened their doors for pseudoscientists and who are continuing to allow this to happen? (I’ve actually volunteered my services to the TGA, but they were not interested.) Not even to speak about the politicians who could actually do something about this, but apparently have little interest to go in against the zhi (will) of the industry.

I can only hope that the courts will also look at the other players in this scenario who are partly responsible for this boy’s death, because it is time that the underlying problems be addressed, otherwise more and more people, including children, will get hurt.

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 complementary, alternative, traditional or integrative ‘medicines’ and stop  using their ‘treatments’. 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 how they continue to promote these ‘medicines’ and ‘treatments’, you can always follow my Blog,  Twitter or connect on LinkedIn. Will keep you posted regarding the outcome of the 2017 Bent Spoon Awards, for which the NICM has again been nominated. Please, ‘Like’ and share this article via FaceBook etc. – options below.

Stopping your support of these products and services, by informing yourself and by creating awareness about these issues, are pretty much the only things you can do in order to prevent these needless deaths. It is just such a pity that the VC’s, regulators and politicians (all funded by the taxpayer!) don’t have much interest in this, or just can’t seem to get the job done because of vested interests.  I’ll end with the wise, but somewhat empty, words of Prof Barney Glover (VC of WSU) “universities must stand up for facts and the truth – if we don’t, who will!” – Clearly Prof. Glover will not stand up for the truth, hopefully, the public will!

Superfoods (& most complementary meds). They all come with the same steaming side dish: a hearty helping of bullshit.

A bit of humour to let off some steam, but also to continue to battle the flood of misleading information regarding complementary and alternative medicines (CAM). Because, who wants me to explain how CAM is regulated in Australia? ‘Booooring’, ‘yaaawn’, ‘move on mate’ – I can hear you say. Short answer; no one.  So, how can one get this important, albeit boring, information regarding how we are being misled, to as many people as possible? Well, humour might play an interesting role, because everyone loves a good laugh. But then again, how can anyone squeeze any humour out of such a dreary subject? Luckily, there are some exceptionally gifted people, who can do exactly that. Not only can they give this subject a hilarious spin, they can also get the complicated message across – and hopefully many people will learn from this while enjoying some very good comedy.

And it even gets better, because it is all on youtube. I have listed a couple of videos where the consumer program “The Checkout” looked at various aspects regarding CAM regulation and misleading claims made for specific supplements, including superfoods. Sure, the focus is on Australian issues, but the CAM industry in other countries use very similar techniques  – so these videos are perfect for anyone who wants a good laugh, and learn something while doing so. Below is a short description and the total length of each video.

  1. The Australian Complementary Medicines industry is worth over $1.2 billion a year. But do manufacturers have to prove their products work? Or is a celebrity endorsement enough? Craig Reucassel looks into these questions and more. You can find the video here, length 8:47min. (they were sued for defamation based on this segment).
  2. Pharma Sutra: Seems you can buy anything at a pharmacy these days. But are pharmacists breaking their own code of conduct? You can find the video here, length 7:32 min.
  3. Chlorophyll: Kirsten Drysdale throws stones in the chlorophyll glasshouse. You can find the video here, length 3:20 min.
  4. Nicole Kidman Joins The Checkout + Dodgy Swisse Labelling: Consumer affairs Ambassador Nicole Kidman speaks out for the first time about her Swisse ads. And Craig follows up The Checkout’s first investigation into dodgy labelling of complementary medicines, analysing Swisse’s dodgy reaction to their dodgy products being banned. You can find the video here, length 2:30 min.
  5. Swisse update: Craig looks at Swisse’s push for more self-regulation in the advertising of complementary medicines. You can find the video here, length 3:32 min.
  6. Superfoods: They’re ancient, exotic, jam-packed full of antioxidants, and all come with the same steaming side dish: a hearty helping of bullshit. You can find the video here, length 9:00 min.
  7. Fish Oil: Kirsten Drysdale finds something fishy in the world of omega-3 supplements. You can find the video here, length 9:00 min.
  8. U. Tube: Howdy Partner! A special welcome to the ABC’s new commercial partner, Swisse, with a trip down memory lane! You can find the video here, length 1:27 min.

The patriarch of the supplement company Swisse, who features in many of these videos, did sue the Checkout for defamation after video 1 aired, but the case was eventually settled. And as expected, Swisse just continue to sell their dodgy products, using very dodgy claims. Enjoy the videos, and if it is any good please distribute their links via your network!

What can you do about the flood of misinformation re CAMs?

Well, if you are not a politician, Vice Chancellor or work for the regulators, to be honest, not much. One obvious thing that anyone can easily do, is to stop supporting unproven and disproven complementary, alternative and integrative therapies and medicines, even if it might look like harmless interventions (a balanced diet, exercise and drinking enough water is far more beneficial than all these complementary medicines combined – and it’s a lot cheaper).

Another important thing that anyone can do is to inform yourself, because you, or a member of your extended family or friends, will sometime during your lifetime be confronted with fake medicines or fake medical practitioners. The problem is that these people are so good that they can sell ice to an Eskimo, and hence, they can mislead anyone; your age, level of education etc. does not matter. To be well informed will be your only defence.

A very good source of valuable information, with an Australian focus, is the group called ‘Friends of Science in Medicine’ (FSM). They are doing excellent work by providing accurate information regarding healthcare, but they are also doing much more than that. They are trying very hard to persuade Australian universities, politicians and regulators to stop their support of pseudoscientific healthcare systems – to fulfill their gatekeeper role. To join the 1100 concerned academics/healthcare professionals you can add your voice by becoming a friend of FSM or follow them on Twitter (@FriendsOfSciMed) or FaceBook. Their newsletters detailing all of their efforts also comes highly recommended. You can subscribe here.

A second valuable source of information is the website of Prof. Edzard Ernst in the UK. Prof Ernst was the first professor of complementary medicine (now retired), but luckily also happens to be a real scientist. He has many decades of experience, which he now shares via his website. This information is invaluable and deals with specific complementary medicines but also with how people around the globe are being misled by pseudoscientists. He has also written many books written in a style that anyone can understand (info on his website) dealing with this subject – it comes highly recommended. Twitter @EdzardErnst

You can also continue to read about my attempts to explain how the minds of pseudoscientists work, and what they are trying to achieve. Although my focus is on the NICM, many universities around the world have similar Institutes who’s modus operandi is exactly the same as the NICMs. You can follow my blog at (frankvanderkooy.com) or Twitter (@frank_kooy) or connect on LinkedIn. A simple and easy thing to do is to use the ‘Like’ function, because algorithms pick up on the number of likes which leads to the article being made available to a wider audience, and thereby creating more public awareness regarding these issues.

How does the NICM deal with negative media reports? And what does the regulator, the TGA, have to do with it?

As soon as you read any negative media report describing people who got hurt or died using  complementary medicine (CM), you can expect a statement from the CM industry such as “Australia already has one of the most rigorous regulatory systems in the world for complementary medicines,” or “he said Australia had a world-class system for regulating complementary medicines.” The NICM, an “independent” research institute, use a very similar statement “with Australia having one of the highest (?) regulatory systems for complementary medicines in the world.” When you read the NICMs media releases you will come across this statement, and many other commonly shared statements, quite often.

It is almost as if the CM industry has met with the NICM where they together decided that this statement will cause the least damage to the CM industry. It will come as no surprise that this is exactly what happened. The NICM has developed, in partnership with the CM industry, a communication strategy to deal with negative media reports (highlighted text page 3 and 4) and this full time position at the NICM is fully funded by industry (highlighted text page 3).  The first important question is; if you are fully paid by industry will you really say anything negative regarding their products or will you only defend it? The second issue; isn’t it maybe better to employ a scientist who can critically look at the media report and provide all the scientific evidence (risks and benefits) for that specific CM? Isn’t that what an “independent” institute such as the NICM should do? Their statement is designed so that the public should think that all CM products are rigorously tested by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), and hence they should not worry too much. Trust the TGA!

The term CM encompasses such a huge number of different medical treatments and products, so surely the NICM should be able to say that a specific CM works or not, or that it carries a number of risks. The public need to get the full story! Unfortunately this does not seem to be the case, so together with their industry partners and sponsors they devised strategies to undermine the much discussed NHMRC homeopathy report, and any other negative media reports covering any CM, such as chiropractic.  And, of course, they have devised a strategy to deal with their archenemies the Friends of Science in Medicine.

But, does Australia have the best regulatory system for CMs in the world? CM’s are regulated through the TGA and the current estimates of listed CM products ranges between 10 000 and 16 000.  Most members of the public believe that this mean that the TGA has tested the claims of all these products, but this is simply not the case. It is not the responsibility of the TGA to perform these tests – it is up to the CM industry to provide information regarding efficacy and safety. But there is another very important aspect that is often overlooked. In my view there are actually two “levels” of regulations concerning CMs. The most important level of regulation concerns the safety and efficacy. Only when a product ticks this box does the second level of regulations (quality control, labelling, stability testing, packaging, advertising etc) become important. The TGA does a wonderful job when it comes to the second level of regulations – although some people might hold a different view on this – but it fails miserably at the first level of regulation. This means that the regulatory environment of CM’s in Australia is completely inadequate and the statement made by the CM industry/ NICM is simply misleading the public.

To prove my point. I can identify a plant growing in my garden, google the name of the plant and  download the “scientific evidence” that this particular species has been used somewhere in the world for at least three generations – which means it is safe – and then register a new product with the TGA.  I do not have to provide the evidence of efficacy, I just have to say that I have it somewhere, and that it is available on request. If the evidence is requested by the TGA, and this only happens in a very few cases, I can simply withdraw my new product without facing any penalties. The fact that there are 10 000-16 000 CMs (and this number is growing fast) further strengthens my point. It is a very simple process and the NICM has spent a lot of effort lobbying the TGA to make this process so simple. For their hard work the NICM was also duly awarded a prize from the CM industry.

The main problem with this overreliance on scientific publications produced elsewhere as evidence of safety and efficacy, is that academics all over the world are under such pressure to publish that some scholars currently claim that “most published research findings are false”. This can again be seen by the interesting phenomenon that almost 100% of clinical trials of herbal traditional Chinese medicine gave positive results when the research is conducted in China.  Thus, in my view, the regulatory environment in Australia for CMs is most definitely inadequate.

When the NICM/CM industry refers to the TGA they refer to the second level of regulations regarding quality control, packaging, labelling etc. And they do this simply to mislead the public. It is like claiming that homeopathy (or acupuncture) is extremely cost-effective and hence should be promoted nationally but completely forgetting about the efficacy and/or safety issues. Yes water is very cost effective but does it work as a cancer treatment? When they claim that the quality control, labelling, stability etc is done according to TGA regulations (second level of regulations) they seem to be forgetting about the most important issue of safety and efficacy of CMs.

But then again if you look at the number of complaints that the TGA receives regarding misleading label claims then the NICMs approach becomes quite concerning. The CM industry are notorious for making massive claims without having much evidence to back this up and for breaching label laws without any real penalties from regulators. Any move from government to improve or strengthen regulations is fiercely opposed by industry/NICM and they will garner support from some high profile politicians in order to prevent tighter regulations. Currently industry and the NICM are lobbying for even further deregulation of CM products. They want to make it simpler and easier for industry to sell their products. So is the NICM an independent research institute – no way!

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.