Sunday, January 25, 2009

End of the Tainted Milk

Here’s comes the indignation. I am so incensed I wish I were in a position to right this.

The 22 dairy companies involved in the scandal have proposed a 1.1 billion yuan ($160 million) compensation plan. Sounds like a lot of money, doesn’t it? However, when you break it down into what each loss is worth, I start to get a little nauseous. I have never cared for the insurance adjusters little sliding scale of compensation vs. injury and I like this one even less.

Most of China is incredibly impoverished and these parents made great sacrifices to buy this milk for their children. There is also no social safety net like the USA, Canada, UK and many other countries have; so, the younger generations in many cases take care of the older generations. An elderly person in certain segments of China without children or grandchildren lives a lonely, hardscrabble life.

If your child died, it is worth 200,000 yuan ($29,000); just a serious case of kidney stones 30,000 yuan ($4,380); and, anything less 2,000 yuan ($290).

The China Dairy Association said the distribution of compensation payments was nearly complete, and that more than 262,000 families — or 90 percent of the official total — had accepted the dairies' offers by Thursday, CCTV reported.

On Thursday, January 22, 2009, 21 defendants blamed in the milk scandal were sentenced, including the former general manager and chairwoman of Sanlu Group Co., Tian Wenhua, 66.

Tian Wenhua, the highest-ranking executive charged in the tainted milk scandal, was given life imprisonment while three other company executives got sentences between five and 15 years.

One of those middlemen, Geng Jinping, who supplied hundreds of tons of melamine-tainted milk to Sanlu, was sentenced to death. Also condemned was Zhang Yujun, who ran a workshop that produced melamine-tainted powder branded as protein powder.

The parents and family members of the children involved felt the verdicts were too light and the compensation too low.

"Of course the verdicts are not just, especially the verdict of Tian Wenhua," said Li Xuemei, the mother of a sick baby, referring to Wenhua’s sentence.

Li and other parents wanted the death penalty for Tian, 66, a former member of China's ruling Communist Party and head of the Sanlu dairy company. They questioned whether she may have got a lighter sentence because of her contacts with powerful people.

Also conspicuous by their absence was the fact that no government officials had been charged. This is referring to long-standing accusations that local authorities in the northern city of Shijiazhuang where Sanlu is based were part of a cover up.

"So far no-one in the Shijiazhuang government has been punished," said Ma Hongbin, the father of a sick baby in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen. He has stepped forward to informally represent other parents.

"In fact, many people say that Tian Wenhua was just a scapegoat, that there were many other people involved that will not face justice."

However, Ma is precious little time worrying over the verdicts, as he is concentrating all his energy on trying to get his 18-month-old daughter healthy again after she was fed Sanlu milk powder and fell ill.

"The most important thing is my child... she had an operation in hospital, but her condition is still bad. I don't know what will happen to her."

Ma is an incredibly brave man – he rejected a lump-sum compensation package of 30,000 yuan (4,400 dollars). If his petition is denied, authorities may not repeat the offer he has rejected.

"The government should be responsible for my child's health for her entire life," he said. And he is absolutely correct.

Echoing complaints by other parents, Ma also said the government had rejected repeated requests for an investigation into the long-term impacts of consuming melamine.

"What we are concerned about now is our children. We demand that the government conducts intensive research into how melamine will affect our children and how these problems can be fixed," he said.

In contrast to the families' complaints, China's state-run media said Thursday's sentences set a benchmark for how similar cases should be handled.

"The parents of many infant victims should feel relieved because justice has finally prevailed," the China Daily newspaper said in an editorial. "The trial of this case will hopefully set a precedent for handling similar cases in the future. It will hopefully create a better climate for food safety."

At least a dozen individual lawsuits have been filed against Sanlu; but, they are caught in a legal limbo because courts have neither accepted nor refused the cases — a sign of the scandal's political sensitivity.

A lawyer representing dozens of families with children sickened by tainted milk said that the bankruptcy order raised concerns that his clients might be outmaneuvered by the dairy's creditors.

"In theory, those who were physically harmed should get compensation first," Beijing-based lawyer Xu Zhiyong said in a telephone interview. "But our concern right now is that they might act in a brazen way, namely that the creditor bank or banks will collude with the local government to make Sanlu's assets go to compensating themselves first."

According to Chinese bankruptcy law, a company's liquidated assets are distributed first to employees who are owed salaries or insurance payments, then to pay off taxes, and finally to "common creditors."

1 comment:

kathi said...

I hope US companies are paying attention to death sentences. I do not support corporal punishment, but once exacted don't mind pointing to reference. Of course, here we give our corporate thieves multi-million dollar compensation packages, maybe a few weeks in Club Fed and send them out to do it again.