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Sentence is death in fatal food poisoning

TWO men have been sentenced to death, one with a two-year reprieve, for putting poison into the food at a snack bar, killing two diners and sickening 61 others in south China's Shenzhen last February.

The defendants, Ke Bizhi and Wang Yingde, lodged an appeal, the Shenzhen Intermediate People's Court said yesterday.

In addition, Zhu Yuanlin, a private business owner who ordered the poisoning, was sentenced to life in prison, and accomplice Zhang Zhenhua, a manager of Hong Kong-listed car maker BYD Co, was given 15 years. Zhu appealed while Zhang did not.

Zhu, who owned stores in Shenzhen's Longgang District, ordered the poisoning in an attempt to pressure the local government into demolishing a booming marketplace that had taken business from his stores in the same neighborhood, the court said.

On February 20 last year, Zhu offered Zhang, BYD's human resources manager, a chance to operate a skating rink rent free. In exchange, Zhang would have to get rid of the marketplace by any means he chose within four weeks. He talked the problem over with Ke, a friend, and they agreed that a mass food poisoning at the restaurants would force the government to demolish the market.

Ke bought sodium nitrite and asked Wang Yingde, another migrant laborer, to sneak into a snack bar and lace it with the chemical. Sodium nitrite, similar in appearance to salt, is used as an industrial color fixative but is also used in small amounts as a meat preservative.

Meanwhile, in Heilongjiang Province in the north, a 60-year old man was seriously ill and at least 40 people fell sick after eating snack food from a shopping center yesterday, health authorities said.

The snack stall was closed, and health authorities were investigating the incident.


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