25 Nov 2009

Two executed in China over milk-powder scandal

11:51 am on 25 November 2009

Dairy cooperative Fonterra says China's tainted milk powder scandal that has led to the execution of two men on Tuesday has been a terrible tragedy.

Six children died and more than 300,000 were made ill when the industrial chemical melamine, used in the manufacture of plastics and fertiliser, was added to watered-down milk to mislead inspectors testing for protein.

The company involved, the now bankrupt Sanlu, was partly owned by Fonterra.

Fonterra has issued a statement saying the two men who were executed did not work for San Lu.

"These were people who set out deliberately to contaminate milk in China involving up to 22 different milk companies," the statement said.

"As a result of this, the Chinese government has put in place regulations that will hopefully ensure that this never happens again."

Fonterra said the whole incident has been a terrible tragedy.

New Zealand's Amnesty International spokesperson, Margaret Taylor, says Fonterra's response is disappointing and wants the company to condemn the executions.


Zhang Yujun and Geng Jinping are the only people to have been executed, the BBC reports.

Zhang was convicted of endangering public safety by dangerous means, namely, by selling more than 770 tonnes of the tainted powder, while Geng, who managed a milk production centre, was convicted of supplying Sanlu.

The official Chinese news agency said the executions were carried out on Tuesday, but did not say where.

The two men were sentenced in January in Shijiazhuang, capital of Hebei, where Sanlu was based. Their appeals were rejected by the Hebei Provincial Higher People's Court in March.

Sanlu chairwoman got life sentence

Nineteen other people have been sentenced to prison terms for their roles in the scandal. Former Sanlu chairwoman Tian Wenhua, the highest-ranking executive charged over the scandal, pleaded guilty to charges that did not carry the death sentence, and was sentenced to life in prison.

Sanlu was China's largest seller of milk powder until news of the scandal broke in September last year.