Planet China

Nursing a grievance

For many Chinese it’s a pre-dinner custom: snapping photos of dishes served at restaurants and posting them online. Many internet users go a step further and write their own restaurant review on social media too.

However, a luckless man in Hebei has found himself detained by police for trashing the culinary output of a hospital canteen. Identified by his surname Zhang, the food critic was so disappointed with the set meal he was offered that he shared his frustration on various social media platforms last month.

“I want to faint,” he wrote, while sharing photos of his food. “The set meal is expensive but the food is so bad… Where is the [hospital’s] conscience?”

His complaints struck a chord with others who were likewise fed up with the food at hospitals. But as the remarks gained traction with netizens, the Handan police tracked Zhang down and detained him last week for a “disruption of public order”. Worse, Zhang then became another victim of trial by television as a local police chief chose to make an example of him as a person who “spreads falsehoods” online.

The televised trial has hardly put the case to rest. Instead it stoked anger nationwide, as people were annoyed that someone would be detained and tried for complaining about hospital food.

The local authority has now apologised to Zhang and the police chief has been suspended. But the local police bureau was also at pains to point out that Zhang wasn’t an impartial critic: he used to run the hospital canteen but lost the contract after the clinic was relocated.

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