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    » 03/31/2010, 00.00

    CHINA

    Milk scandal: closed door trial for seeking justice for sick children



    The trial of Zhao Lianhai begins, accused of fomenting unrest because he helped families to seek fair compensation. The toxic milk killed six children and infected more than 300 thousand, but the authorities want to silence debate.

    Beijing (AsiaNews / Agencies) – The trial of Zhao Lianhai 'began yesterday in Beijing.  Zhao is the leader of the Kidney Stone Babies that brings together parents of children ill from drinking milk with melamine. The authorities are attempting to try him in silence and the police even banned his wife from seeing her husband and threw her out of the court.  

    Zhao is accused of "being an agitator that caused unrest," to have held illegal meetings and shouted slogans to cause problems and to have seriously disturbed the social order ", a crime that carries up to 5 years in prison. In reality, he gave legal advice to families and victims of toxic milk to help them take action in court to get fair compensation. The trial took place behind closed doors, to prevent the participation of the many people sympathetic to the pro-rights activist.

    His lawyers said he was led handcuffed into court like a dangerous criminal. Zhao has protested his innocence and told the judges that "if reporting a crime to the police is a crime .... then we live in a society very dangerous. "

     

    In February, the milk scandal erupted again, when it appeared that at least 5 dairy producers have continued to use toxic milk.  

    Outside the court, the parents say this is the result of the state’s attempts to stifle the 2008 scandal.  

    Li, after hours in a persistent drizzle, was unable even to see her husband. She commented sadly to the South China Morning Post that "we are the victims. The authorities want to avoid the problem and, instead, they target us. Do not have a conscience? "  

     

    Li Xuemei, Zhao's wife, waited for hours outside the court in Daxing District, along with their 5 year old son Pengrui and dozens of journalists and supporters. As a police car presumably carrying Zhao pulled up in the morning, supporters shouted his name.  

    Pengrui drank milk containing melamine (plastic substance used in industry but poisonous to humans) and now has a calculation of 2 mm in right kidney. In September 2008 the scandal broke of leading dairy industries that put melamine in milk to make it appear rich in nutrients in quality control, because its molecule is similar to that of the protein. For having drank this milk about 300 thousand children have fallen ill and at least 6 have died (Zhao spoke of 12 confirmed deaths). At first the state promised adequate compensation, but then gave 2 only thousand yuan (about 210 euros) to each family, a sum entirely inadequate to cover the necessary medical care over the years. Many parents have turned to the courts to seek further compensation, but the court ruled their actions "unacceptable" because the claims were still being investigated by the authorities. Other parents of this group have been threatened by the authorities and some arrested.  

    For this reason Zhao and other lawyers tried to organize the families seeking compensation for their children. The activist was arrested Nov. 13 in front of his child and since then has not been seen by his family.  

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    See also

    19/12/2008 CHINA
    Chinese government not paying for children sickened by melamine-tainted milk
    The authorities had pledged free treatment, but instead parents are forced to pay and denied the right to sue guilty companies.

    23/01/2009 CHINA
    Death penalty, life sentences in tainted milk scandal not enough for families of sick children
    The condemned are scapegoats, while the responsibility of the health authorities and the government has not been established. Parents of sick children insist on adequate compensation for their damages.

    11/12/2008 CHINA
    Babies and toxic milk: Chinese companies will pay…."maybe"
    The health minister confirms he is working on a compensation plan for families with small children affected by the melamine poisoned milk. “Probably” companies responsible for the disaster will pay. Scepticism among lawyers and families of the 294 thousand children struck by kidney stones and urinary tract diseases.

    29/12/2010 CHINA
    Activist for children affected by melamine toxic milk released, but "self-confessed"
    In his blog, he thanks the authorities for the criminal penalty and asks not to be disturbed. He had promised to appeal at the sentencing last November, but later fired his lawyer and refused the appeal. Human rights groups suspected a confession extracted in exchange for his release.

    11/12/2010 CHINA - HONG KONG
    Journalists attacked in front of the house of activist arrested over the melamine scandal
    A group of reporters in Hong Kong were beaten and insulted by 40 district guards under the indifferent gaze of the police. The journalists were reporting on the family of Zhao Lianhai, in prison since 11 November for mobilizing families, victims of poisoned milk.



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