10 November 2010
Chinese food scandal protestor jailed
Today’s Telegraph reports that Zhao Lianhai, who created a website to highlight the plight of children poisoned in a major food adulteration scandal in China, has been jailed for 2 1/2 years.
Zhao created the site in 2009 after his son was poisoned after being fed adulterated formula milk. He was one of about 300,000 Chinese toddlers who were poisoned (of which at least six of them died) by milk that contained melamine, an industrial chemical that was added to make the milk appear to contain more protein than was actually the case.
The website quickly became a focal point for thousands of parents who were outraged at the crisis, and that the issue had initially been covered up.
As more and more parents began to call for justice and compensation, and Mr Zhao began to press their case publicly, he came to the attention of the Chinese authorities.
Last November, he was arrested by the police and then charged in March with "creating a disturbance". His lawyer, Li Fangping, said the evidence for the charge had been that Mr Zhao had given a media interview on a public pavement, held a dinner in a restaurant for a dozen parents of other victims, and that he had held up a small sign in protest outside a trial of milk company executives responsible for the poisoning.
As his sentence was announced, Mr Zhao protested in court, stripping off his prisoner's uniform and refusing to be handcuffed. "I am not guilty!" he said. Mr Li said he would appeal the sentence, and that Mr Zhao was in "quite good health, but anxious. He has not seen his wife and two children for almost a year."
Mr Zhao has already served one year of his sentence, and will now have another year-and-a-half of prison time.
Three people have been sentenced to death for their role in the toxic milk case, and the general manager and chairwoman of Sanlu, the milk company at the heart of the scandal, was given a life sentence. Dozens of officials, dairy executives and farmers have been punished for allowing the contamination to take place.
What to say? Words fail.