Monday, September 27, 2010
Xiao Chuanguo vs. Fang Zhouzi: A Chronology
Professor Xiao Chuanguo first surfaced in the world internet forums some time near the turn of the centry. But nobody knew him then -- He was posting under a pseudonym "Confused Professor" (昏教授). Around the same time, Fang Zhouzi was starting his efforts in exposing scientific fraud in China. "Confused Professor" took an interest in Fang Zhouzi's actions and decided that he didn't like what he saw. He posted a few articles criticizing Fang Zhouzi.
In 2001, Fang Zhouzi published a popular science essay in a newspaper in China, introducing some recent research results to the general public. "Confused Professor" reported it to Science, which carried the original study, as a case of plagiarism. Science responded that it was not plagiarism because Fang Zhouzi "neither implied that the work was his own by writing in the first person nor directly copied the language in the Science paper." Nevertheless, "Confused Professor" and his followers continued to propagate the myth that Fang Zhouzi had committed plagiarism.
Fast forward to the fall of 2005, "Confused Professor" was revealed to be Professor Xiao Chuanguo, then in the process of moving back to China from his post in New York and applying to become a member of the prestigeous Chinese Academy of Science. Alerted netters wrote to New Threads suggesting that Xiao Chuanguo had been mispresenting his resume in his application. On September 21, 2005, Fang Zhouzi publised an essay in Beijing Science and Technology summarizing the charges, questioning Xiao Chuanguo's claims of his academic status, number of publications and that he had invented a world-famous "Xiao's Procedure" (At that time, the term "Xiao's Procedure" had only existed in Xiao Chuanguo's own tellings).
In October, Xiao Chuanguo sued Fang Zhouzi and the newspapers that carried the articles.
May, 2006, as Fang Zhouzi's efforts were exposing more scientific fraud in China, 120 Chinese scholars, mostly biologists based in US, published an open letter calling for a stop of such public investigation in the name of protecting scientists' reputations.
That June, Xiao Chuanguo also published an open letter of his own, attacking Fang Zhouzi personally and swore that "this must be revenged!" He followed that up by launching a series of libel suits against Fang Zhouzi.
On July 31, 2006, a local court in Wuhan reached verdict on the very first Xiao Chuanguo vs. Fang Zhouzi case. The court decided in favor of Xiao Chuanguo, employing some very convoluted logic. Fang Zhouzi denounced it as a practice of local protectionism and vowed to defy any penalty ruling.
That very same day, an open letter supporting Fang Zhouzi began circulating. Over a hundred people signed up right away. The number of signatures eventually reached over 600.
September 5, 2006, Xiao Chuanguo launched another lawsuit against Fang Zhouzi, this time in Beijing, challenging Fang Zhouzi's assertion of local protectionism in Wuhan, where Xiao Chuanguo lived and worked. Also in that September, Rao Yi, then a professor at Northwestern University in US, published a friend-of-court style essay criticizing Xiao Chuanguo. In China, Professor Qing Chenrui (the wife of Professor He Zuoxiu) also published an open letter supporting Fang Zhouzi.
By November that year, escalation continued. Xiao Chuanguo launched another round of lawsuits, this time in New York against Rao Yi, Fang Zhouzi, and New Threads. (Rao Yi's insurance company in US eventually settled on his behalf.)
In China, Professor He Zuoxiu and Fang Zhouzi's lawyer Peng Jian established a Fund in support Fang Zhouzi, who at that time was also facing several other lawsuits in addition to those by Xiao Chuanguo. Overseas, The Organization of Scientific and Academic Integrity in China was also formed to collect donations supporting Fang Zhouzi's cause. Science reported thusly, "China's Fraud Buster Hit by Libel Judgements; Defenders Rally Round"
March, 2007, Xiao Chuanguo, together with other plaintiffs against Fang Zhouzi, issued a public threat to all signatories of the open letter supporing Fang Zhouzi, vowing to sue every person who did not publicly rennounce their signatures. Within that month, Fang Zhouzi lost most of those cases in several courts. He once again pledged to defy the judgements.
But then on May 28, 2007, Beijing Intermediate Court reached a verdict in Fang Zhouzi's favor, a first court victory of its kind.
After that, the dispute seems to have died down for a couple of years until August 2009 when Xiao Chuanguo boasted on Internet that he had received a court-issued fine from Fang Zhouzi. It was news to the latter. It was then that Fang Zhouzi discovered that his wife's bank account had been raided by the Wuhan court without their knowledge. (Fang Zhouzi and his wife had a prenuptial agreement that separates their finances.) His appeal was denied by the court.
In the months of October through December of 2009, a couple of Chinese newspapers, led by science reporter Fang Xuanchang, published a series of investigative findings exposing the ineffectiveness of the Xiao's Procedure and its severe side effects. Lawyer Peng Jian announced lawsuits to seek damages from the surgery.
February, 2010, A group of volunteers of New Threads collected documented materials and published an open letter questioning the Xiao's Procedure. The letter was sent to several institions and hospitals involved in clinical trials of the procedure in US.
August, 2010, the first clinial trial result of Xiao's Procedure from Beaumont Hospital in Michigan, US, was published in Journal of Urology. The journal also published sharply critical comments.
June 24, 2010, reporter Fang Xuanchang was brutally attacked by two thugs on his way home. He suffered serious head injuries and barely escaped.
August 29, 2010, Fang Zhouzi was attacked in daylight in a similar mannar. Fortunately he was able to escape with only minor injuries.
September 20, 2010, Xiao Chuanguo was arrested and identified as the mastermind behind both attacks.