Milk Dad Refused Compensation

Chinese father of sickened child vows to continue fighting for justice after being detained.

2011-05-27
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zhaolianhai_crop-305.jpg Zhao Lianhai, in an undated photo.
Photo sent by Home for the Kidney Stone Babies

A Chinese activist whose child was made sick in the 2008 tainted milk scandal was briefly detained in Beijing after being refused compensation by a government-backed dairy industry fund on Thursday.

"They didn't give any reason [for the refusal]," said Zhao Lianhai from his cell phone outside the China Dairy Industry Association headquarters in Beijing, shortly before being detained at a nearby print shop.

Zhao Lianhai, whose child was one of 300,000 made ill by infant formula milk laced with the industrial chemical melamine, was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in jail by Beijing's Daxing District People's Court on Nov. 11 last year after he led a campaign for compensation.

He was later released on medical parole and kept under tight surveillance.

Zhao was taken away from a print shop near the dairy association by police on Thursday, along with fellow parent activist Xiang Qingyu as they were making a poster for their continued campaign for compensation.

Twitter postings by Zhao later said he had been sent back home, although security personnel continued to harass him. He said he would continue his fight for justice.

"The issues faced by all these children must be resolved. I will not stop even if they smash my body to pieces."

Secret fund

Zhao had been seeking compensation under a secret government fund of 1.1 billion yuan (U.S. $ 154 million) set up to pay the medical fees of children sickened by melamine-tainted milk.

Dairy Association director Song Kungang recently told reporters the fund was kept secret under national security laws.

"Nobody would meet with us," Zhao said, adding that there was a large police presence at the association offices before he, his lawyer, and fellow activists arrived.

"There are three parents, myself, Xiang Qingyu, and Wang Gang. We came all this way today, and we never thought they would close the door in our faces," Zhao said.

"I just touched the door to see if it was open, and they said I was trespassing," Zhao said. "I have been arguing with them ever since. After a while, the police all went back to their cars."

He said there were around a dozen police officers at the scene, in three police cars.

Financial help

Xiang Qingyu, who traveled from the eastern city of Lianyungang to make a claim from the fund, said many parents are in desperate need of financial help with medical bills incurred after their children suffered kidney problems from the tainted infant formula.

"We don't want anything else," Xiang said. "This money is for the child. So many of our children are in need of these funds."

"They paid no attention to the parents of kidney-stone babies who came here to inquire about how they administer their fund," Xiang said. "I don't understand it."

"It is normal office hours, and yet they won't even let us inside the front door."

Xiang said the parents are beginning to suspect that the funds have been diverted elsewhere. "Now we are even more suspicious that the funds have been used for a different purpose," he said.

Beijing-based parent Wang Gang said his child had required surgery for kidney stones that cost more than 40,000 yuan (U.S. $ 6,150)

"We just wanted to see how they administer the fund. But according to my understanding, I never heard of anyone getting money from this fund."

"We are totally at a loss ... We will have to find some other way ... but there is no other way," Wang said.

"It costs 40,000-50,000 (yuan) even for a simple surgical procedure, and we can't afford that."

Surprised

Zhao's lawyer, Peng Jiancheng, said he was surprised by the reception the group received.

"We just wanted to get it clear under what circumstances they would give compensation money to these children and babies," Peng said. "But we couldn't even get inside the main entrance of the building today."

"We called a few numbers we know [there], but no one picked up the phone," he said.

Calls to the China Dairy Industry Association during office hours on Thursday were picked up and then immediately cut off.

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

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