Fri, Sep 26, 2008 - Page 8 News List

The bitter aftertaste of the Chinese food scandal

By Paul Lin 林保華

Making a pun on the words “independence” and “poison,” both pronounced du in Chinese, China often refers to “Taiwanese independence” as “Taiwanese poison.” In reality, however, it is in China that poisonous contaminants keep turning up in food, proving that the real “poison” is China itself.

An Internet user and new father in Jiangsu Province posted an article saying he had bought Sanlu milk powder to support the economy by buying Chinese-made goods. He now asks: “What is the purpose of patriotism and supporting Chinese-made products? As a child, I learned the saying ‘Without a country, we have no home.’ But what have I got in return for my patriotism? The hardest thing to bear is when you are betrayed by the one you trust the most. It’s a feeling worse than death.”

Complaints about Sanlu’s milk powder first appeared on Chinese Web sites in February, but bureaucrats and businesspeople found ways to get them deleted. Newspaper reports began appearing early this month, but not until Sept. 13 did China’s State Council Information Office, under pressure from the New Zealand government, call a press conference. On Sept. 17, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (溫家寶) publicly censured the responsible authorities for failing to monitor the situation, and on Sept. 19 Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) criticized the officials involved for being “numb and uncaring.”

Given that melamine-tainted products have been sold all over China, and that an international scandal occurred last year when pets died from eating contaminated Chinese-made pet food, just replacing a couple of company presidents and local officials will not be enough.

It was public pressure that forced the resignation of Li Changjiang (李長江), head of the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, on Monday.

Yili Group products have also tested positive for melamine. Last year Hu visited the Yili Group and gave it his endorsement. Surely it is the Chinese Communist Party and government leaders who should be taking responsibility for the scandal.

Almost every country in the world has banned existing imports of Chinese milk powder. Last week I wrote that Taiwan’s government should lodge complaints with the WHO and WTO to uphold national sovereignty and dignity and protect Taiwanese interests. But all the government did was inform the WHO that some Taiwanese products made with Chinese milk powder had been sold to Hong Kong. The government put Taiwan in the position of being an accomplice of Beijing, providing the Chinese-controlled WHO with another opportunity to belittle Taiwan’s sovereignty.

Has China shown the slightest remorse for its wrongdoings? No. Hu and Wen have not expressed the slightest contrition, and Wang Xiaobing (王小兵), deputy general secretary of China’s Association for Relations across the Taiwan Strait, on a visit to Taiwan, behaved as if it had nothing to do with him.

In an unusual move, Shigeru Omi, outgoing WHO regional director for the Western Pacific, criticized the Beijing authorities on Sunday for not warning the international community early enough, but Xinhua news agency reported that “the WHO said that China had been earnest and conscientious in its handling of the milk powder contamination affair.” Clearly, Beijing has not learned the lesson and is still lying and covering things up.

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