Tainted-Milk Compensation Below Expectation

By Wang Biqiang
Published: 2009-01-06

From News, page 3, issue 401, Jan 5, 2009
Translated by Zuo Maohong
Original article: [Chinese]

Three months after the melamine-tainted milk scandal broke, cash compensation has finally been offered to victims; but some rejected it and vowed to pursue further legal action to demand for a more justifiable redress.

Just before the new year arrived, Shijiazhuang municipal authorities notified affected families of the compensation scheme, which offered 200,000 yuan for each death, 30,000 yuan to each victim who suffered acute illness, and 2,000 yuan for minor ailments.

Shijiazhuang is the base of Sanlu Group, the dairy company that was first found to have added industrial chemical melamine into its infant milk powder, the consumption of which caused babies to develop kidney stones.

Subsequently, 21 more dairy companies were found guilty of the same practice and the tainted milk had sickened some 300,000 babies nationwide. A government mediated compensation scheme, which all the companies involved would contribute to depending on their share in causing damages, had been brewing over the past months.

On December 29, Shijiazhuang local government told all sub-district offices and residents' committees to hand out compensation to victims under their administration before the New Year's Day.

Zhao Lianhai, founder of jieshibaobao.com, a website - which name means babies who developed kidney stones - serving the interest of tainted milk victims, said many affected parents disagreed with the compensation scheme.

Li Yanfang, mother of a 17-month old girl sickened by Sanlu's tainted milk and a resident in Shengbei Street, Qiaodong District, refused the 2,000 yuan offered.

Though her baby only had mild symptoms, Li said the compensation was not even enough to cover all the taxi trips she made to the hospital, let alone the cost for follow-up treatment, which the baby should receive every two weeks.

Li said she was informed by the "tainted milk compensation office" on December 27 to receive compensation in the sub-district office. Two days later, the office notified her to get the money from the residents' committee.

At the committee office, she was asked to sign on either of the following two documents – A Letter to Parents of Sickened Children or Registration Form of Those Who Rejected the Compensation.

The first was more like a compensation contract, which had the seal of Sanlu Group on it, Li said. In the letter, the space for the compensation amount was left blank, but the attached receipt wrote 2,000 yuan.

The letter also mentioned this was a one-off compensation, and follow-up medical costs before the victim reached the age of 18 would be covered by a special fund. China Life Insurance had been trusted to manage this fund.

The core content of the second document was that the parents decided to reject the compensation and take legal action, she recalled.

She said the parents of the other two patients in her community had signed on the letter, but she refused to take the money.

A compensation agreement should base on open discussions among all parties involved instead of a unilateral offer, she said.

On behalf of the 22 dairy companies held responsible for the contaminated milk, China Dairy Industry Association begged for forgiveness on the New Year's Day through text messages sent through a mobile network provider.

Part of the message read, "we are now distributing compensation to sick children, and have set up a fund for follow-up medical costs."