Death Sentences for Chinese Milk Adulterators

While I’m on the subject of China, some harsh sentences have come down on people convicted of adulterating milk with melamine in China:

A Chinese court has handed down death sentences to two men implicated in a tainted-milk scandal that killed at least six infants and sickened hundreds of thousands of others.

The Intermediate People’s Court in Shijiazhuang issued the first verdicts in a nationwide scandal surrounding milk powder tainted with the industrial chemical melamine.

Two men, Zhang Yujun and Geng Jinping, were sentenced to death. Zhang ran a workshop that allegedly was China’s largest source of melamine used in the tainted dairy products. Geng was convicted of producing and selling toxic foodstuffs.

The court sentenced Tian Wenhua, the former head of the dairy company at the center of the scandal, to life in prison and fined her nearly $4 million. She was found guilty of making and selling fake or substandard products.

Her company, the now-bankrupt Sanlu Group, was fined more than $7 million. Six other former Sanlu executives were sentenced to jail, for five to 15 years.

Harsh as they are these sentences are largely window dressing. A truck driver and a fairly low level manager have received death sentences. A few company executives have received stiff fines and prison sentences. Nobody believes that Sanlu was the only company involved in the practice and no officials have been subject to any penalties whatever.

This move is largely pour encourager les autres and I suspect we’ll see more scandals of this sort in China. The incentives are substantial and the likelihood of apprehension is low. Dealing with the problem would require reforms in Chinese government, the Chinese economy, and civil law that are probably beyond their ability to enact at this point.

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Dave Schuler
About Dave Schuler
Over the years Dave Schuler has worked as a martial arts instructor, a handyman, a musician, a cook, and a translator. He's owned his own company for the last thirty years and has a post-graduate degree in his field. He comes from a family of politicians, teachers, and vaudeville entertainers. All-in-all a pretty good preparation for blogging. He has contributed to OTB since November 2006 but mostly writes at his own blog, The Glittering Eye, which he started in March 2004.


  1. DC Loser says:

    Let’s contrast this with how many Wall Street executives, even lowly ones, have been punished or even arrested for their part in the collapse of the US financial system? Madoff? He’s a sideshow to the real crime. I’d settle for a little bit of pour encourager les autres at this point if only to make me feel a little better about our mess.

  2. Matthew Stinson says:

    @DC Loser: A better example, if you want a comparison, is what China is doing to white collar criminals: fining the crap out of those who are “caught” and even killing low-level ones. However, China “catching” these criminals comes only periodically, when the government feels an example is to be made.

    @Dave: The depressing thing about this action is that the punishments don’t seem to include Shijiazhuang city officials, which are just as responsible for this tragedy as the Sanlu people themselves.

  3. Franklin says:

    Well, from my knowledge of Chinese culture (and I have some personal experience), this is just as much about saving face as saving kids or encouraging others. These guys helped embarrass China, and will pay the price.

  4. Barry says:

    True – it’s an Abu Ghraib thing in a different language (nobody above squad leader did time for Abu).

    “I’d settle for a little bit of pour encourager les autres at this point if only to make me feel a little better about our mess.”

    I’d set up a really long gallows on Wall St, and keep it loaded nice and full – starting at the tops of these firms.