Lee Der chief dies in apparent suicide after toy recall


Tue, Aug 14, 2007 - Page 10

The head of a Chinese company that made Sesame Street and other toys that were recalled in the US due to safety fears has committed suicide, a state-run newspaper reported yesterday.

Zhang Shuhong (張樹鴻), the boss of Lee Der Industrial Co Ltd (利達實業), was found dead in a factory warehouse in Guangdong Province on Saturday, the Southern Metropolis newspaper said.

Fisher-Price, a subsidiary of Mattel, this month recalled nearly 1 million toys, including popular Sesame Street and Dora the Explorer-branded models sold in US stores, because of fears they contained toxic lead paint.

Many of the toys were produced by Lee Der.

The government last week ordered Lee Der and another toy manufacturer at the centre of a similar high-profile recall in the US to suspend their exports.

Zhang, who is from Hong Kong, was found with "deep marks" on his neck, said the paper, based in the Guangzhou city.

A company official surnamed Liu told the paper Zhang had committed suicide.

No further information was given on the exact cause of death, with the paper reporting that police were investigating.

The newspaper quoted Lee Der staff as saying Zhang was distraught over feeling he had been "hurt" by the supplier of the suspect paint, whom he had counted as a good friend.

"[He] was so evil-hearted to have sold the fake paint to our boss ... our boss was ruined by his best friend," a Lee Der manager surnamed Liu was quoted as saying.

China's national product-quality watchdog has blamed Lee Der's paint supplier for providing "fake lead-free paint powder" used on the toys.

Hansheng Woodware Factory (漢勝木業) made 1.5 million wooden Thomas the Train figures for US importer RC2 Corp that were recalled by the US company in June for similar fears over lead paint.