Toy boss hit by lead-paint recall kills himself

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 14 August, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 14 August, 2007, 12:00am

A Hong Kong toy producer who ran up big debts after a US toy giant ordered a recall of items his company had produced has committed suicide, it was reported yesterday.

Cheung Shu-hung, 50, who ran Lee Der Industrial, hanged himself in a factory warehouse on Saturday in Foshan's Nanhai district, the Guangzhou-based Southern Metropolis News reported.

The report said Cheung had plunged into more than US$30 million of debt since US firm Mattel this month recalled 967,000 toys produced by his company. Excessive levels of lead were detected in the plastic toys for under-fives, sold under the Fisher-Price brand.

The Mattel recall came just two months after New York's RC2 Corp recalled 1.5 million mainland-made toys and parts from its Thomas & Friends Wooden Railway product line because of concerns about the lead content in their paint. In extreme cases, lead poisoning can cause nerve damage and even death.

The recalls prompted the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine to ban exports from Lee Der and from Hansheng Wood Products in Dongguan in an attempt to push mainland producers to obey safety rules.

The Southern Metropolis News quoted a Lee Der factory manager as saying that Cheung hanged himself on Saturday after visiting his three plants and saying goodbye to staff.

The company was also a victim of the recall, the manager said. 'The boss and the company were harmed by the paint supplier, the closest friend of our boss,' he said.

Workers said Cheung had asked them to stop work from Saturday. On Friday, the quality watchdog ordered authorities to investigate the company's use of 'fake plastic pigment'.

Lee Der's Hong Kong office could not be contacted for comment and staff at its Nanhai head office declined to comment.

Workers said they expected Cheung's funeral would be today.