China bear bile producer faces IPO backlash

Updated: 2012-02-12 09:27


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BEIJING - China's recent move to boost securities transparency by releasing a full list of applicants for initial public offerings (IPOs) has unexpectedly sparked public outcry over a medicine company that turns a profit selling bear bile.

Gui Zhen Tang, a pharmaceutical company that produces traditional Chinese medicine containing bear bile, has roiled the public after being spotted on an IPO application list published by China's securities regulator earlier this month.

The company, based in southeast China's Fujian province, harvests and processes bear bile for medicinal powders, capsules and other products. The company owns the largest black bear breeding center in south China.

Internet users and animal lovers have accused Gui Zhen Tang of animal cruelty in extracting the bile from live bears, despite the company's claims that it uses humane "no tube" drainage methods.

Gui Zhen Tang plans to use the raised capital to expand its annual output of bear bile powder to 4,000 kg, as well as to increase its breeding center's bear population from 400 to 1,200, according to Yu Ji Chun, the producer of a wildlife program on Southwest China's Yunnan TV network.

"If it really goes public, this year will mark doomsday for those bears," Yu said, posting a video depicting the bloody bile-milking process on Sina Weibo, a popular Chinese micro-blogging site.

Yu's micro blog post about the bears has been retweeted more than 8,000 times, and thousands of Weibo users have joined him in bashing the company and opposing its listing.

However, this is not the first time for Gui Zhen Tang to face a backlash over its IPO drive.

Last February, the company also became the target of online anger after local media reported it was planning to go public.

A British-based NGO, Animals Asia, headed the online protest and wrote to the Fujian branch of China's securities regulator to throttle the listing.

Under China's current IPO rules, after submitting an application, companies typically need to wait for six months until authorities approve the listing. But the process can be prolonged, depending on application quality and market conditions.