Tainted Milk Victim's Parents Receive $29,000

Parents of an infant who died after drinking melamine tainted milk have been paid $29,000 in compensation by the Chinese dairy at the heart of the scandal, their lawyer confirmed.

BEIJING (AP) -- The parents of an infant who died after drinking tainted milk have been paid 200,000 yuan ($29,000) in compensation by the Chinese dairy company at the heart of the scandal, their lawyer confirmed Friday.

Yi Yongsheng and his wife Jiao Hongfang, farmers from poverty-stricken Gansu province, accepted the money Wednesday from Sanlu Group Co. as compensation for the death last year of their 6-month-old son, said Dong Junming, one of their two Shanghai-based attorneys. By accepting the money, the family gave up its right to sue the company, he said.

The payout was part of a standardized scheme of payments announced last month by China's dairy association and the 22 dairy companies involved.

Some parents of affected children have banded together to reject the deal and pursue legal options because they say it doesn't cover enough children and the payments are too low.

"I don't think they care about the exact amount, but they just want it to end. They are tired of being stuck in this unbearable pain," said Dong.

Yi Kaixuan died May 1 after suffering kidney failure caused by the contaminated milk, which was laced with the industrial chemical melamine. He was among the first fatalities in the nationwide scandal that left at least six babies dead and nearly 300,000 children sickened.

Under the plan announced last month, 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. Another 200 million yuan ($29 million) would go to a fund to cover bills for lingering health problems.

The couple's other attorney, Shen Xianlei, was quoted by the official Xinhua News Agency Friday as saying that they would have been unlikely to get more than 200,000 yuan ($29,000) if tried to sue in Gansu province, where death compensation is typically about 40,000 yuan ($5,900).

However, Shen said that in more developed regions, the amount offered by the companies might not be acceptable.

More than 3,000 families in Shijiazhuang, the capital of Hebei Province, where Sanlu is based, have accepted the compensation package, according to the local government, Xinhua reported. It was unclear what level of compensation they were given.

"Some parents were reluctant to accept the compensation package at the beginning, but they were persuaded and have since changed their minds," a Shijiazhuang government spokesman was quoted as saying.

Mounting public anger over the scandal, considered a national disgrace, has forced the government to announce a major revamping in the quality controls in its dairy industry.

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.

As of last month, 861 children were still in the hospital suffering from kidney stones or urinary problems, Xinhua said.

Sanlu's former chairwoman and general manager, Tian Wenhua, is awaiting sentencing in a criminal case connected to the scandal. She pleaded guilty and admitted in court that she knew of problems with her company's products for months before informing authorities. Tian faces a possible death sentence.

Melamine, which like protein is rich in nitrogen, was added 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.

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