Trials Begin in China for Those Accused in Melamine Scandal

Trials began in China on Friday, December 26, 2008, for six men allegedly involved in China’s tainted milk scandal.   Melamine, a compound used in making plastics, had been added to artificially increase the amount of protein found in watered-down milk.  Though not toxic, melamine can cause kidney stones and renal failure.

The tainted milk lead to the death of six children and illness in 300,000 others in China.  Parents of children that had been sickened from melanine intended to hold a press conference in China, but were detained by Chinese police. 

One of the men on trial, Zhang Yujun, 40, was the owner of a company that was allegedly the country’s largest source of melamine.  Prosecutors in the Shijiazhuang Intermediate People’s Court accused Zhang of producing 776 tons of the additive powder from October 2007 through August.  According to the Associated Press:

[Zhang] allegedly sold more than 600 tons with a total value of 6.83 million yuan (about $1 million).

Zhang Yanzhang, 24, a second man on trial, was accused of buying and reselling 230 tons of melamine powder.

Both Zhang Yujun and Zhang Yanzhang were shown on state television in handcuffs while being questioned by the judges.   An intermediate court in China rejected requests by some foreign journalists to attend.

Four other men were being tried in three separate courts across China for their alleged involvement in the melamine scandal. 

In a separate trial, Ms. Tian Wenhua, a high ranking corporate executive at Sanlu–a company at the center of the melamine scandal–plead guilty to selling tainted powdered baby formula and acknowledged that the company knew of the problem months before alerting local officials.  Ms. Tian Wenhua could face life imprisonment or even the death sentence if convicted. 

In 2007, the former head of China’s State Food and Drug Administration, Zheng Xiaoyu, was executed for corruption after a scandal-plagued time at his position.  Zheng Xiaoyu was convicted of taking 6.5m yuan ($850,000) in bribes.

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