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No escaping justice for milk-scandal culprits

A COURT in north China's Hebei Province yesterday upheld the sentences of six people convicted for their involvement in the tainted-milk scandal that killed six infants and sickened nearly 300,000 children last year.

Justices from the Hebei Higher People's Court rejected Tian Wenhua's appeal to have her life sentence overturned. The 66-year-old was the general manager and chairwoman of now-defunct Sanlu Group Co, the dairy at the heart of the contamination. She was the highest-ranking executive charged in the food safety scandal.

Tian, who was convicted of manufacturing and selling fake or substandard products, was also fined 24.7 million yuan (US$3.6 million) by the Shijiazhuang intermediate court in her first trial.

The higher court also upheld the death sentences of Zhang Yujun, a cattle farmer, and a defendant named Gao Junjie. Both had been convicted of producing and selling "protein powder" containing the industrial chemical melamine.

The chemical, used in the manufacture of plastics and fertilizer, was added to watered-down milk to fool inspectors testing for protein and to increase profits.

The higher court yesterday also upheld the convictions of two brothers charged with producing toxic milk products. Geng Jinping, who managed a milk production center, was sentenced to death for selling hundreds of tons of tainted milk to Sanlu. His brotherGeng Jinzhu, a driver at the center, was given eight years.

Execution review

An appeal by protein powder dealer Zhang Yanzhang was also rejected. Zhang was sentenced to prison for life for endangering public safety two months ago.

The executions must now be approved by China's Supreme People's Court.

In addition to the criminal cases, the discipline inspection department of the Party's Hebei provincial committee punished 14 officials involved in the scandal.

Ji Chuntang, the mayor of Shijiazhuang where Sanlu was headquartered, was sacked. His two deputy mayors and a vice Party secretary were demoted and all received severe Party disciplinary warnings.

The other officials, who worked for the provincial agriculture and health departments and Shijiazhuang's Industrial and Commercial Bureau and quality supervision administration, received demotions or warnings.

Shijiazhuang authorities admitted they received reports about Sanlu's melamine-contaminated milk on August 2 last year but didn't notify the provincial government until September 9.

The milk scandal caused outrage and shook the country's legal system into action, culminating in a law that consolidated disparate regulations covering 500,000 food processing companies.


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