Chinese authorities investigate Baidu over student's death from cancer

Chinese health and internet authorities have launched an investigation into the country's search engine Baidu, after the death of a college student who accused Baidu of misleading him over fraudulent cancer treatment.

Experts say the scandal would undermine the credibility of Baidu's search results, and its long-term economic prospects.

Baidu's stock plunged around 8 per cent on the Nasdaq after reports of the government investigation.

College student Wei Zexi from northwest China's Shaanxi Province discovered two years ago that he had a rare form of cancer called synovial sarcoma. After the treatments he tried failed, Wei turned to Baidu.

His Baidu search suggested a treatment at the Beijing People's Armed Police Corps Hospital No 2, which claimed to offer an effective experimental treatment  developed in collaboration with Stanford Medical School.

But state media later reported that there was no collaboration.

The treatment failed, and Wei accused the Baidu of cheating him.

"I did not know how sinister Baidu could be," he wrote.

"I don't want to die," he said. "My 21 years of effort have not yet born fruit. I still have dreams. I still want to see this wide world."

Wei died on 12 April.

"The lack of forces protecting the public interest is one of the biggest challenges facing the development of China's Internet," commented Fang Xingdong, one of China's earliest bloggers, and the founder of Chinalabs.com, an internet-related think tank.

Meanwhile, the hospital has stopped new admissions, the state-run People's Daily said in a post on its official microblog.

"Due to the hospital undergoing education and rectification, we will from today temporarily suspend all external services," the hospital said in a notice posted by the People's Daily.

China's paramilitary police, which ran the hospital, has offered full cooperation in the probe.

The People's Armed Police said on the Chinese military's news website that it paid great attention to Wei's case and had already sent its own team to the hospital.

"Problems that are discovered will be seriously investigated and handled in accordance with the law, and there will be no compromises," it said, without elaborating.