Death Sentences in China Tainted-Milk Scandal

Chinese court hands out two death sentences, gives former dairy boss life.

ByABC News
January 22, 2009, 10:36 AM

BEIJING, Jan. 22, 2008— -- Two men have been sentenced to death for their roles in the tainted infant formula scandal that killed six babies and sickened 300,000 more in China last year.

The former chairwoman of the milk company at the center of the scandal was also given life in prison.

In total 12 people were sentenced for their involvement today by the court in the northern city of Shijiazhuang.

Zhang Yujun, who produced and sold melamine-laced protein powder, was convicted of endangering public security. He ran a workshop that was China's largest source of melamine.

Geng Jinping, the other man sentenced to death, was convicted of producing and selling toxic food. Zhang Yanzhang, a third man, was accused of working with Zhang Yujun to buy and resell powder. He was sentenced to life in prison.

Tian Wenhua, the former general manager and chairwoman of Sanlu, the dairy that produced the tainted milk, pleaded guilty and was given a life sentence.

Tian admitted that she knew the milk was tainted and yet allowed the company to continue selling the products for months before she told authorities and ordered a recall. She was also fined $3.6 million.

Many angry parents were not satisfied with the sentence and believe she deserves to die.

"My granddaughter died. She [Tian] should die too. She should be shot. She has brought such harm to the public, to children," said Zheng Shuzhen, of Henan province, whose 1-year-old granddaughter died in June after drinking Sanlu milk.

Fearing an enraged reaction from victims' relatives, police officers guarded the courthouse and put up barriers, telling people to stay 100 yards away. The families of sickened babies gathered there awaiting the announcements.

Some carried protest banners demanding justice. Television pictures from the scene showed signs saying, "Suffering, suffering" and "The people want justice."

"We hope that this Sanlu case is the last and that this Sanlu case will be a lesson for China's food product safety. We hope things like that won't happen again and hurt the victims and people," Zhao Lianhai, the protest organizer, told reporters in Shijiazhuang.