By Horace Lu
Guizhengtang CEO Qiu Shuhua: Opposing us is opposing the state.
Guizhentang, the bear bile company that has hogged headlines all week for its second attempt at a public listing has started a public relations campaign to pacify the chorus of condemnation from animal lovers, celebrities and the general public of its alleged animal abuse activities.
To show how bear bile extraction can be — in the words of one traditional Chinese medicine expert — “natural, easy and without pain,” the company has decided to open the doors of its bear farm to journalists on Feb 22 and to People’s Congress delegates, activists and experts on Feb 24.
On its official website, Guizhentang listed 60 accredited media organizations that would be allowed into the bear farm, promising a “transparent” and “open” visit.
But according to Ningxia TV and China Business Network (CBN), what visitors will see on the two open house dates will be a highly scrubbed version of what really takes place in those bear farms.
According to CBN, Guizhentang has spent large sums of money hiring hired Century Longwen, a PR company that has handled several high profile scandals in the past, to manage its crisis communications.
A Guizhentang employee who refused to be identified told CBN that bears may have been anesthetized before visitors arrive. What visitors see will be only young and happy bears, while those old bears who are suffering from injuries, depression and even self-mutilation will be nowhere to be seen.
In footage obtained secretly by the CBN team, bears were observed roaming freely in a park, while others were heard groaning in the background.
Zhang Yue, co-founder of the Chinese Association of Traditional Chinese Medicine (CATCM) and a famous CCTV anchorperson, is one of those invited by Guizhentang. She has voiced her objection to the limits and arrangements of the company.
“We cannot believe in the authenticity of an organized, arranged and restricted visit,” she said.
Guizhentang is in its second bid for a public listing after its first attempt was thwarted amid national condemnation in 2011.
Soon after announcing its second bid, however, the company’s official website was hacked.
Guizhentang founder Qiu Shuhua was quoted by the media following her thwarted bid in 2011 as saying that “going against us means going against the state” because all of the company’s business activities had received the approval of the government.
Earlier, Fang Shuting, the chairperson of the Chinese Association of Traditional Chinese Medicine gained notoriety for saying at a press conference, ”The process of extracting bear bile is like turning on a tap: natural, easy and without pain. After they’re done, the bears can even play happily outside. I don’t think there’s anything out of the ordinary! It might even be a very comfortable process!”
Experts say bear bile, a common ingredient of Chinese medicine can be easily substituted by other substances, and artificial bear bile has been found to be even more effective than bear bile itself.