China Jails Activist Dad due to Tainted Milk Scandal

Zhao Lianhai's 3 year old son was hurt by tainted milk, was jailed for 2.5 years for protesting

Zhao Lianhai's 3 year old son was hurt by tainted milk, was jailed for 2.5 years for protesting

Confused, I am, when China has a scandal that hurts a lot of Chinese people, there is a government investigation, and those that protest and asked for the investigation, and their lawyers, are given long jail sentences. A world of hurt landed on the shoulders of Zhao Lianhai, the father of a 3 year old boy sickened by China’s tainted milk scandal in 2008, who just received a 2.5 year sentence for “inciting social disorder”. As a strong supporter of the People’s Republic of China, I question why they need to use a sledgehammer to kill a gnat. Zhao Linhai‘s sentence is unjust and casts China’s government as a bunch of thugs.

Not only did Zhao Linhai get a 2.5 year sentence, but this is on top of the time already spent in jail, which is another year. Zhao Linhai was arrested in November 2009. That is 3.5 years for speaking your mind, trying to speak up for his child who cannot. Incarceration in China is unlike the humane conditions we have here in Canada. Will they go after his lawyer next, I wonder?

Must China act this way for all activists? In this case politics was not directly involved. The father only wanted to speak out to an injustice his family experienced, not to overthrow the country’s leaders. In fact, there was widespread consensus that the scandal had occurred, as three people were executed, a couple of people were jailed for life, and many people were fined. China has acknowledged that this scandal did exist and punished some involved.

Zhao Lianhai, photo from Home for the Kidney Stone Babies, sentenced to 2.5 years in jail

Zhao Lianhai, photo from Home for the Kidney Stone Babies, sentenced to 2.5 years in jail

Why is China not great enough to say to Zhao Linhai that he was right, the government investigated the allegation, those involved were investigated, brought to justice and are now in jail or dead. Would not that be morally better than jailing a father with a valid complaint? Should not an advocate of increased quality standards of food safety and standards be hailed as a hero and not scorned as a criminal?

Formerly the editor of a publication covering food and product safety, Mr. Zhao created a Web site, Kidney Stone Babies, that served as a clearinghouse for the parents of affected children. When it became clear that many dairy companies would escape punishment, he encouraged parents to file civil lawsuits against them — a futile tactic, as it turned out, given that most Chinese courts refused to accept the suits…

During his trial in March, the court denied his lawyers’ request to present video evidence and witnesses in his defense. “The judge said the prosecution’s case was so solid, there was no need,” Mr. Peng, his lawyer, said, adding that he thought the government had failed to prove that Mr. Zhao’s activities had disturbed public order. “Holding up a sign outside a courthouse does not produce disorder,” he said. source

As China has said many times in the past, “Do not meddle into China’s domestic affairs”. This is true, and there is little anyone outside of China can do for Zhao Linhai. We do, however buy Chinese goods. I feel very uneasy buying goods from a country that will unjustly jail a father who’s young son was victimized by the tainted milk scandal. Are the consumers of the world willing to tolerate and subsidize blatant human rights violations from any country, for the sake of a cheaper product? While you could say they are not directly correlated, we can protest by not buying Chinese products. Is this the result that China seeks?

Let us be reasonable here. Zhao Linhai is a grieving parent and he is mad. He has a right to be mad. Those that were involved with the tainted milk scandal were investigated and dealt with. Let Zhao Linhai get on with his life without an additional jail sentence. He has already been punished because his son was sickened, through no fault of his own. Is not that enough punishment for him? Let him go.

Other articles:
China and human rights: jailed for speaking out
China jails tainted milk activist Zhao Lianhai
China court jails father of ‘tainted milk’ child
China Food Safety Activist Given 2 1/2 Years: China food safety activist given 2 1/2 year prison sentence for ‘inciting social disorder’

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