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Wikipedia called irresponsible on acupuncture

By SHAN JUAN | China Daily | Updated: 2017-01-20 03:11

A top practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine has called Wikipedia irresponsible over its entry on acupuncture, which calls the practice "pseudoscience".

Acupuncture is not based on widely accepted scientific knowledge, according to the English version of the free online encyclopedia, which also says that TCM in general is "fraught with pseudoscience".

But Li Zhenji, vice-chairman of the World Federation of Chinese Medicine Societies, countered that the "efficacy of acupuncture has been proved by history and is widely practiced in China and abroad".

"It's irresponsible to list the medical technique as pseudoscience," he added.

Statistics from the World Health Organization show acupuncture has been practiced in 103 countries besides China. In 18 of them, Li said, acupuncture treatments are covered by health insurance, which he said is a recognition of its efficacy.

Liu Baoyan, head of the World Federation of Acupuncture-Moxibustion Societies, said the Wikipedia entry "won't hurt people's confidence, with its efficacy proved already over time, but it could serve as a reminder for us to conduct more clinical studies on its therapeutic effects".

TCM is largely experience-based, he said, adding that its therapies, such as acupuncture, lack the lab-based evidence that is crucial in Western medicine.

"TCM should catch up in that sense, presenting itself with an approach more acceptable to the outside world," he said, urging the Chinese government to invest more in scientific research and studies of the ancient medical science.

The WHO said via an e-mail to China Daily that its objectives regarding TCM are to build the knowledge base, strengthen national regulatory systems and promote universal health coverage by integrating traditional and complementary medicines into healthcare services.

Li called on Wikipedia, based on user-edited content, to make immediate changes to its article on acupuncture.

Previously, TCM supporters from China and other regions petitioned the Wikimedia Foundation, which operates the website, but a spokeswoman told Legal Evening News last week that Wikipedia content is contributed and edited by users after certain procedures, including verification.

She said the foundation would follow the issue closely but couldn't make any changes itself.

On Wednesday, President Xi Jinping presented a bronze copy of an acupuncture statue to Margaret Chan, the WHO director-general, as a gift during a visit to the headquarters of the UN health agency in Geneva, Switzerland.

The copy features more than 600 acupuncture points.

According to Liu, the first such copy was reportedly made during the Song Dynasty (960-1279) as a testing tool for students. Acupuncture points were covered by wax in the test. If a student correctly inserted a needle into the points, mercury that was infused beforehand would spill out.

Chan has urged the Chinese government to promote acupuncture and TCM worldwide to benefit more people.

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