Amid an online outcry, the government reacted swiftly. Mr Shu’s name disappeared from a list of advisers to the legislature in Tianjin, a northern port city where his company is based. On January 7th state media reported that Mr Shu and 17 others had been arrested. Market regulators launched a 100-day inspection of the health-product business. By March 1st more than 4,800 cases had been lodged against firms involved in it, the regulators said.
On a recent visit to the site of Quanjian’s headquarters in a semi-rural suburb of Tianjin, a lone employee said the firm was closed. Nearby noodle restaurants that once fed its staff were shuttered. Ownership of the firm’s crown jewel, Tianjin Quanjian fc (now Tianjin Tianhai), has been transferred to the local football association. The club is seeking a new investor.
It has been a remarkable fall for one of Tianjin’s health giants. A guard says the headquarters was once busy “like Tiananmen Square”. Buses from out of town daily disgorged hundreds of Quanjian “teachers”, as the firm called its senior salespeople. Mr Shu once boasted that his 10,000-bed cancer hospital was the largest in Asia. It is now shut.
In the company’s heyday, over 7,000 shops nationwide offered Quanjian’s signature “fire therapy” (patients are draped in alcohol-soaked towels and set alight). Among its popular products were “negative- ion” sanitary pads that claimed to prevent menstrual cramping and cervical cancer. The brand’s insoles, which purport to cure arthritis and heart disease, are still available online. A pair sells for 1,068 yuan.