China Delivers Harsh
Sentences to Tainted Milk Culprits
Source of Article: http://www.voanews.com/english/2009-01-22-voa14.cfm
A Chinese court has handed
down death sentences to two men implicated in a tainted-milk scandal that
killed at least six infants and sickened hundreds of thousands of others.
The Intermediate People's
Court in Shijiazhuang
issued the first verdicts in a nationwide scandal surrounding milk powder
tainted with the industrial chemical melamine.
Two men, Zhang Yujun and Geng Jinping, were sentenced to death. Zhang ran a workshop
that allegedly was China's
largest source of melamine used in the tainted dairy products. Geng was convicted of producing and selling toxic
The court sentenced Tian Wenhua,
the former head of the dairy company at the center of the scandal, to life in
prison and fined her nearly $4 million. She was found guilty of making and
selling fake or substandard products.
Her company, the now-bankrupt Sanlu Group, was
fined more than $7 million. Six other former Sanlu
executives were sentenced to jail, for five to 15 years.
Zhao Lianhai, whose four-year-old son was sickened
by tainted milk, expressed satisfaction with the two death sentences.
At the same time, Zhao says he thinks former Sanlu
head Tian should also have been charged with
selling poisonous or harmful foodstuffs, which would have carried a maximum
penalty of death. He says the charge was not fair. He says her life sentence
is a mistake.
He says he and other parents also are disappointed that no Chinese officials
have had to face formal charges.
Zhao has set up a web site to help organize parents whose children were
sickened. He says only about seven parents showed up for the sentencing.
Authorities detained at least two sets of parents of melamine victims, as
they attempted to travel to the heavily-guarded Shijiazhuang courthouse.
The scandal involving tainted milk broke in September, although Sanlu authorities knew of problems with their company's
products months earlier.
Middlemen who sold milk to dairy companies had watered down the raw milk and
then mixed it with melamine, which gives an artificially high reading for
Melamine is normally used to make plastics and fertilizer. If ingested in
large amounts, it can cause kidney stones and kidney failure.
The discovery of melamine in Chinese dairy exports also triggered many
product recalls overseas.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu says her government has paid
"great attention to food safety."
Jiang says, after the Sanlu case broke, the Chinese
government took measures to strengthen food safety rules and regulations. She
is willing to work with the international community to improve food