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Guangdong tainted milk parent-activist denied compensation for wrongful conviction

Tainted milk parent-turned-campaigner Guo Li has been denied compensation for wrongful imprisonment by the Supreme People’s Court RFA has learned.

In 2017, a court in the southern province of Guangdong retrospectively acquitted Guo after he served a five-year jail term for demanding compensation after his infant daughter was sickened by the 2008 melamine-tainted milk scandal.

The simultaneous interpreter was handed the five-year sentence by a court in Guangdong’s Chaozhou in 2010 for “extortion” linked to his campaign for compensation from Guangzhou-based infant formula maker Scient after his child became ill with kidney stones.

Following his release, Guo then lodged an appeal with the Guangdong Provincial High Court, which found that the facts of the case were unclear, that there was insufficient evidence, that the court of first instance had breached due process on two occasions, and that the case was inconclusive.

Guo later took his appeal to the Supreme People’s Court in Beijing, learning on April 10 that his attempt to win redress had been unsuccessful, he told RFA in a recent interview.

He said his claim for state compensation was ruled “inadmissible” because a time limit had expired.

“The court found that no compensation should be paid, and my appeal application was rejected,” Guo said. “I was advised to deal with the matter through other means.”

Guo said the ruling was itself in breach of regulations governing state compensation claims.

“I think this is a shameful and ridiculous ruling,” he said. “I will continue to pursue those responsible for compensation in the Guangdong Provincial People’s High Court, via the prison service, and through the detention center system.”

Beijing-based lawyer Mo Shaoping said the two-year limitation does exist, but that the court should have ignored it.

“If the judicial system has wronged a person and that person is eventually acquitted, they it should take the initiative to compensate them,” Mo told RFA.

Tainted milk scandal

Guo’s daughter was one of 300,000 made ill by infant formula milk laced with the industrial chemical melamine, which saw a total of 21 people convicted for their roles in the scandal, two of whom were executed.

The government said after the 2008 scandal that it had destroyed all tainted milk powder, but reports of melamine-laced products have occasionally re-emerged.

Guo has previously described three years of harsh treatment, including beatings and solitary confinement, during his prison sentence, as the authorities put pressure on him to “admit to his crimes.”

Held in a cell measuring little more than one meter (3.3 feet) wide and deprived of adequate food and water, Guo was given moldy food and dirty ditch-water instead.

Campaigners say promises from then-premier Wen Jiabao that the government would foot the medical bills for all of the children affected by melamine-tainted milk haven’t been kept.

Instead, the scandal has led major health insurance companies in China to start excluding kidney-related diseases from policies, owing to the huge medical bills racked up following the scandal.

Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.