Last year in September, infant formula that contained an excess of the chemical melamine was deemed responsible for the deaths of at least six babies and for sickening nearly 300,000 others. Melamine is commonly used in coatings and laminates, wood adhesives, fabric coatings, ceiling tiles, and flame retardants. Some Chinese dairy plants added the chemical to milk products so they would appear to have a higher protein level.
The Chinese government has since offered families a government-sanctioned plan that gave lump sums to victim’s families. According to Shen Deyong, executive vice president of China’s highest court, more than 95 percent of the victims’ families have accepted the compensation from the dairies. Under the plan, the families whose children died would receive 200,000 yuan ($29,000 USD). For infants with mild to severe cases of kidney stones, they would receive 2,000–30,000 yuan ($290–$4,380 USD).
However, more than 600 families are refusing to accept the money. They are demanding higher amounts that include compensation for emotional harm as well as medical and other expenses. They are planning to file lawsuits.
Is this simply a case of parents being extra greedy?
We don’t think so. China is known for its one-child policy, a rule the government imposed in order to control overpopulation. Because of this rule, for most Chinese families, every child is especially precious. The government-controlled dairy industry is responsible for the deaths of infants. It’s more than understandable that parents are angry over this.
We think that families demanding higher compensation is not about getting more money, because no amount of money would bring a child back. Perhaps they are trying to get a bigger gesture from the Chinese government. It is also about getting a more vocal acknowledgement that the government made a big mistake and endangered its people.
Some good that has come out of this is that it seems the Chinese government will be more vigilant of its industry practices in the future. The Qingdao Intermediate People’s Court in northern China was first to accept a case, in which the families of 54 children are demanding 8 million yuan ($1.2 million USD). In China’s legal system, this is the first step in a lawsuit.
Though many other courts have refused to take any documents from parents wanting to file lawsuits, the Qingdao court is a step in the right direction. Hopefully, other courts will follow its example and will let parents air their grievances. (end)
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