Dozens of Chinese parents, who say their children were harmed by tainted or improperly stored vaccines, filed lawsuits in Beijing this week as protests over the nationwide vaccine scam continue to grow.
"Everybody gathered outside the National Health and Family Planning Commission today, and then we all marched to their complaints department in the Xizhimen district," parent activist Liu Lixin told RFA on Tuesday.
"We are calling for a vaccines law, because there is no legislation covering vaccinations right now, and families who have been victims of this disaster have no judicial redress," he said.
Meanwhile, nearly 70 parents had their initial lawsuits accepted by the Beijing No. 1 Intermediate People's Court, parent campaigners said on Tuesday
"About 70 or 80 people went there yesterday, and we succeeded in filing our lawsuits," Liu told RFA. "The lawsuits are against the National Health and Family Planning Commission for its inaction and failure to fulfill its regulatory role."
"We also demand that they properly handle the consequences in the aftermath," he added.
Call for action
The indictment calls for action to prevent similar tragedies in future, and for ongoing financial payouts to help with medical bills and living expenses for the victims, some of whom have been left severely disabled since vaccination.
"Our children have suffered varying degrees of harm and disability as a result of immunization injections," the lawsuit reads. "Some have even lost the ability to live independently."
"If the current situation continues, this could happen every year, and affect any family," the suit claims. "And yet these children have no long-term help with medical bills or financial support to get by."
"The plaintiffs have made this problem known to government departments at different levels, who have expressed their sympathy but taken no action to help the victims with the lives they must now live," according to the lawsuit.
The court had accepted the initial lawsuit filed by the parents, campaigner Liu Lijun said.
"It went extremely smoothly, and everyone was very sympathetic and cooperative, and all of the lawsuits were filed," he said. "The judge also gave us a further 15 days to pull together all of the evidence against the National Health and Family Planning Commission."
In March China has launched a nationwide probe of hundreds of people believed to be involved in an illegal vaccine-selling operation that peddled out-of-date or improperly stored vaccines, amid emerging reports of child and infant deaths and illnesses following immunizations.
Authorities in China have sanctioned more than 350 local officials who are blamed for the tainted vaccines scandal that began to emerge in the eastern province of Shandong last month, but parents of affected children have said the moves don't go far enough.
The government has dismissed or demoted 357 officials for "poor performance," as well as ordering tighter measures to ensure better storage and distribution methods for the vaccines, official media reported. Criminal charges are being brought in 192 cases, with 202 detained so far in a nationwide criminal probe.
However, parents who have campaigned for compensation are already being targeted by the authorities.
"I had planned to take part [in the Beijing protests and lawsuits], but I was forcibly escorted home by officials from my hometown on April 13," parent activist Wang Liangqing said on Tuesday."Now they are watching us 24 hours a day, so we weren't able to go." Wang called on the government to take the victims of tainted vaccines seriously.
"At the very least, they should pay proper attention to this group, but all they have done is fire a bunch of people since the Shandong scandal broke," he said. "We have to continue to fight this, whatever the outcome, because our most basic rights and interests are affected."
As many as 2,000 people gathered outside the Health and Family Planning Commission in Beijing on Tuesday. Many of them were older couples whose only child has died, leaving them with no financial support, and they too old to have another under the recently introduced "two child" population policy.
Among them were parents whose children have been affected by tainted vaccines.
"There were a lot of people there ... between 1,000 and 2,000," Liu Lijun said, adding that the authorities took large numbers of protesters to an out-of-town unofficial detention center on Monday.
"Around 1,000 people were taken to Jiujingzhuang ... from around 700 families," he said.
Reported by Qiao Long and Yang Fan for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.