BEIJING Nov 24 China on Tuesday executed two
people for their role in a tainted milk scandal that killed at
least six children and further sullied the made-in-China brand.
Nearly 300,000 children fell ill last year after drinking
milk intentionally laced with melamine, a toxic industrial
compound that can give a fake positive on protein tests, sold
mainly by the now bankrupt Sanlu Group.
A total of 21 Sanlu executives and middlemen were tried and
sentenced in January by a court in the northern city of
Shijiazhuang for their involvement in the case.
The official Xinhua news agency, citing a court statement,
said Zhang Yujun was executed "for the crime of endangering
public safety by dangerous means", while Geng Jinping was
convicted of producing and selling toxic food.
It said Zhang produced more than 770 tonnes of
melamine-laced protein powder, of which he sold more than 600
tonnes, between July 2007 and August 2008.
Geng sold more than 900 tonnes of tainted milk, Xinhua
But the woman most widely blamed for the tragedy received a
sentence of life in jail.
Many families of poisoned children had focused their anger
on Sanlu's former general manager, Tian Wenhua, and said at the
time they felt betrayed that she would not face execution.
Tian pleaded guilty late last year to charges that did not
carry the death sentence.
Xinhua said she had lodged an appeal, but that it had been
turned down by the court.
The case was the latest in a string of food safety
failures, but the Sanlu milk scandal was also one of the worst
and prompted an outpouring of public anger.
Sanlu officials were aware of the melamine problem by early
August 2008 but the public was not warned until mid-September
as China strove to put on a perfect face for the Beijing
Melamine, which can cause kidney stones, is meant to be
used in making plastics, fertilisers and even concrete. Its
high nitrogen content allows protein levels to appear higher
when it is added to milk or animal feed.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Ken Wills)