Shanxi Parent Activist Detained

A father in a northern Chinese province is held after fighting for compensation for his daughter who fell ill from a tainted vaccine.

2010-11-17
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fakedrugs305.jpg Chinese health officials explain how to spot fake medicine in Hefei, April 26, 2008.
AFP

Authorities in northern China have detained a parent who had repeatedly lobbied the government for compensation after his daughter fell ill from a tainted vaccine earlier this year.

Officials routinely harass parents who have campaigned on behalf of children made sick from tainted products in a bid to silence criticism of government oversight in China's food and drug industries.

Yi Wenlong, who has tried for several years to lodge a complaint against Shanxi health officials after his daughter was given a faulty encephalitis vaccine at her school in 2006, was recently hospitalized after ingesting large amounts of sleeping pills in an apparent suicide attempt.

He was being held in a government office building under surveillance by three police officers on Nov. 16, his lawyer said.

"His wife has just called me," said Beijing-based lawyer Yang Xuelin. "They are preparing the indictment documents and tomorrow they are going to go to the court to file the case against him."

"It's because of all his previous petitioning activity [to seek compensation for his daughter]," he added.

Yang said Yi had previously been held under administrative detention twice already by Hongtong county police.

Administrative appeal

"I am about to prepare an administrative appeal on his behalf," he said. "We believe that the administrative detention is illegal."

However, Yang said it could be hard to get the authorities to accept the complaint as valid, and that they would have to try other channels as well.

An official at the complaints division in Yi's home county of Hongtong said she had heard of his case. "Yes, there is such a person," the official said. "But I don't know much about the details of this matter."

Previous attempts by Yi to file lawsuits seeking compensation for his daughter had been unsuccessful, Yang said.

Counterfeit products

Yi's detention comes just days after authorities in Beijing sentenced parent activist Zhao Lianhai to two-and-a-half years in jail on public order charges after he sought compensation for children sickened in the 2008 tainted milk scandal.

A cutting-edge report in the China Economic Times revealed in March that improperly stored vaccines were administered by Shanxi health officials.

Routine vaccinations for encephalitis, hepatitis B, and rabies between 2006 and 2008 killed four children and sickened more than 70 others, the paper said.

Tainted vaccinations were still being used as late as March 2009, reports said.

The incident was one of a string of safety scandals to hit Chinese foods and medicines.

China's pharmaceutical industry is highly lucrative but poorly regulated, resulting in a string of fatalities blamed on counterfeit or shoddy medications in recent years.

China's former top drug regulator was executed in 2007 for taking millions of dollars in bribes to approve substandard medicines, including an antibiotic that killed at least 10 people.

Reported by Sun Jian for RFA's Mandarin service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.

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