Doctor Sentenced in Beijing for Attack on Critics

After a quick trial, a local court in Beijing convicted urologist Xiao Chuang-Guo on 10 October of assaulting two well-known advocates of academic integrity in China.

Xiao, head of urology at the Xiehe (or Union) Hospital affiliated with the Huazhong University of Science and Technology in Wuhan, China, was sentenced to 5.5 months of detention in connection with the crimes, and Xiao's accomplices received detentions ranging from 1.5 to 5.5 months. Chinese media reported that Xiao's lawyer pleaded not guilty to the charge of "causing disturbance," a lesser crime than the original allegation of "intentional harm" under which Xiao was arrested.

One victim of the attacks was Fang Shimin, freelance writer and self-appointed watchdog of research misconduct. Fang had questioned Xiao's academic achievements, but this was not what prompted the attack, Xiao claimed. Xiao told the court that he had a decade-long personal conflict with Fang, mainly because Fang had insulted Xiao's wife and teacher.

Xiao was accused of asking a relative to arrange the attacks to which, police said, Xiao initially confessed. But he denied the accusation in court, saying he gave only implicit consent after his relative repeatedly offered to beat up Fang. Xiao said the money he gave his relative was payment for supporting the relative's child to study abroad.

Fang Shimin, under the pen name Fang Zhouzi, has been publicizing allegations of academic fraud and questionable medical claims on his Web site New Threads for about a decade. Fang says before he was attacked in August, he had written three articles about Xiao, all on his academic achievements.

Xiao and his accomplices were also convicted for the June assault, with steel bars, on

another Xiao critic, Fang Xuanchang. In 2009, Fang Xuanchang edited a series of investigative reports questioning the claimed efficacy of Xiao's surgical procedure which has been applied to thousands of Chinese patients with spinal cord injuries or spina bifida. The aim was to restore their bladder and bowel function. Xiao's testimony in court offered no explanation for the attack on Fang Xuanchang.

Fang Zhouzi says he found the court's decision to hold the trial on a Sunday "very sudden." When he met the judge on 5 October, he was told that the trial would not commence until 10 days later, says Fang. However, he received a notice last Friday that the trial was scheduled for 10 October.

Xiao received support from outside China by physicians concerned about his treatment by the authorities. Kenneth Peters, chair of department of urology at William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Michigan, and several dozen Xiao supporters signed an open letter, praising the urologist for some of his past research accomplishments and urging the Chinese government to "treat Dr. Xiao fairly and to protect his human rights."