Baidu stirs up controversy for promoting scandal-ridden medical facility

Source:People's Daily Online Published: 2016/11/21 17:57:24

China’s search engine giant Baidu has once again invited public concern about the credibility of its medical advertisements after a medical facility that was previously at the center of a scandal was promoted in Baidu's search results.

A search for “orthopedic hospital” on Baidu.com yields more than 8 million results, with Beijing Mylike Aesthetic Plastic hospital appearing in the top position. The hospital is run by entrepreneurs from Putian County in eastern China’s Fujian province. Putianese-owned hospitals now shoulder a notorious reputation for selling folk remedies and providing false medical information, Beijing Youth Daily reported on Nov. 21.

According to the report, Baidu and the hospital have jointly launched a loan-for-surgery project, allowing patients to pay for plastic surgery using Baidu’s financial services.

The advertisements for the hospital had been removed from Baidu's top position as of press time, but both the advertisement and other information about the hospital could still be found on Baidu.com.

This is not the first time Baidu has been criticized for its cooperation with unethical hospitals. In May, Baidu was probed by Chinese authorities after a 21-year-old student died undergoing dubious treatment for a rare cancer, which the student received from a Putianese-owned hospital that had come up in a Baidu search.

The expansion of Putianese-owned medical facilities has led to booming ad revenue at Baidu. In 2013, Liang Jianyong, the former Communist Party chief of Putian, said that Putianese-owned private hospitals contributed 12 billion RMB to Baidu's 26 billion RMB of online ad revenue in 2013, media reported.

The newest advertising gaffe has received a mixed reaction from netizens on Chinese social media, with many condemning Baidu for promoting such blatantly profit-driven medical facilities. At the same time, others argue that there is nothing wrong with promoting Putianese-owned hospitals, as long as the quality of their medical services meets national standards. 

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