Tainted Milk Parents Held

Chinese authorities detain parents observing the anniversary of a far-reaching milk scandal that sickened their children.

milk-shijiazhuang-305.jpg Family members of the victims of a milk scandal demand justice outside the Shijiazhuang Intermediate People's court, Jan. 22, 2009.

HONG KONG—Three parents of children sickened in China’s 2008 tainted-milk scandal were detained after observing the one-year anniversary of the milk scandal, and another who planned to join them has been taken to an unofficial “black prison,” victims’ parents say.

Guo Caihong and Zhou Jinzhong from central Henan province and Xiang Qingyu from southern Jiangsu province met last Friday at a restaurant in suburban Beijing’s Daxing county, parents said. But authorities then detained and questioned them.

Milk powder contaminated with an industrial chemical killed at least six babies and sickened nearly 300,000 others with painful kidney stones last year. Friday marked one year since Sept. 11, 2008, when a Chinese dairy recalled hundreds of tons of baby formula and the government vowed "serious punishment" for those responsible.

Chinese authorities are jittery and eager to crack down on dissent ahead of the 60th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party on Oct. 1. Police have arrested or detained leading dissidents and are harassing lawyers who defend them.

Zhao Lianhai, a representative of victims’ parents, said a local official from Henan contacted Guo Caihong on Friday and promised to take her home from Beijing.

“But on Saturday afternoon, a volunteer told me that the three parents had been taken by their respective local officials to an unknown place instead of home. When they were led away, local police were there as well,” Mr. Zhao said.

Zhou Jinzhong, one of the three parents, described what happened.

“On Saturday, I was taken away by staff members from the Henan Province Office in Beijing, and then they questioned me. Now I am with local officials from our township and our village. I will be heading home tomorrow,” Zhou said in an interview Monday.

He said the two other parents received similar treatment.

Another parent of a tainted-milk victim, Liu Hai from Siyang city, had planned to attend anniversary activities in Beijing but was sent to a “law study group,” an unofficial detention center also known as a “black prison.”

“My husband has been taken away by an office of the local government,” Liu’s wife said.

“This is the news his uncle managed to get through his connections. For me this is the end of the world.”

Original reporting by Qiao Long for RFA’s Mandarin service. Mandarin service director: Jennifer Chou. Translated by Ping Chen. Written for the Web in English by Sarah Jackson-Han.


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