Parents of kids in China milk scandal released - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Parents of kids in China milk scandal released

BEIJING (AP) - Five parents whose children were sickened by tainted milk have been released by Chinese police after being detained for a day in an apparent move to prevent them from meeting with journalists, a lawyer said Saturday.

The parents were unhappy about a compensation plan made public this week, saying the amounts were too low and the plan was formulated without any input from families.

A group of about 10 parents planned to meet with journalists Friday. But five of the parents, including organizer Zhao Lianhai, were detained Thursday and held at a convention center, said Beijing attorney Xu Zhiyong.

They were released Friday evening after other parents who were not detained managed to meet with a few journalists, said Xu, who is part of a legal team representing 63 families with sickened children.

Zhao, who has a 3-year-old child who fell ill but has since recovered, organized other parents and created a Web site about the contamination, said Li Fangping, another lawyer for some of the parents.

Zhao could not be reached for comment.

Police did not give a specific reason for the detention, Xu said, but he thought it was to prevent the meeting with reporters.

The Communist government, which seeks to control what the public sees and hears, frequently suppresses comments about disasters. Phones in the Beijing police information department rang unanswered Saturday, a public holiday.

Dairies announced details of a 1.1 billion yuan ($160 million) compensation plan this week as at least 17 people went on trial for the contamination that killed at least six children and sickened nearly 300,000 others. The milk contained melamine, an industrial chemical that can cause kidney stones and kidney failure.

The parents "said the compensation was unilaterally set by the companies with no participation from victims' families," Li said. "They thought the amount of compensation was quite low."

Under the plan, families whose children died would receive 200,000 yuan ($29,000), while others would receive 30,000 yuan ($4,380) for serious cases of kidney stones and 2,000 yuan ($290) for less severe cases, according to state media.

Another 200 million yuan ($29 million) would go to a fund to cover bills for lingering health problems.

The scandal has battered China's reputation and set back government efforts to restore confidence in the safety of its products following warnings and recalls abroad about toxic or faulty goods.

Dairy suppliers added melamine, which like protein is rich in nitrogen, to watered-down milk to fool quality tests for protein content. Melamine is used to make plastics and fertilizer and is banned in food in China.            

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)      

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