Medicine seller defiant after winning acquittal

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 12 April, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 12 April, 2008, 12:00am

The son of 'Monkey Man' vowed to continue selling his family's traditional Chinese medicine after a court acquitted him yesterday of selling an unregistered drug which was linked to mercury poisoning of a baby boy last June.

Chan Yiu-wing, owner of pet rhesus monkey Kam Ying that made newspaper headlines in 2000 when it was confiscated from his late father Chan Yat-biu, said he would soon apply to register his medicine with the Department of Health.

The department last June urged people not to consume the medicine - a special formula allegedly invented by the Chans 50 years ago - after an 11-month-old baby was fed 10 packs of the product and fell ill. He was treated in Tuen Mun Hospital for 10 days and discharged.

Deputy Magistrate Raymond Wong Kwok-fai, who dismissed a charge against Mr Chan of possession of unregistered pharmaceutical products for sale and distribution, did not rule on whether the medicine was poisonous or if it was harmful.

Evidence was presented showing Mr Chan's powdered medicine contained 21,000mg of the drug Santonin per kilogram. According to a witness, Ms Lam, a government pharmacist, Santonin is used in curing parasitic infections and the level of the drug in each of Mr Chan's 1.5 gram packs was slightly higher than the level in most common registered drugs sold for parasitic infections.

But Mr Chan's lawyer, Jonathan Man Tak-ho, said the dosage fell short of minimums defined in the drug reference publication, Martindale, indicating Mr Chan's medicine should not be called a pharmaceutical product.

Mr Man attacked the reliability of government pharmacist Lee Kwok-ming, who said that Mr Chan had told him during questioning that he only sold the drugs to long-time customers.

Mr Wong accepted that the evidence was not strong enough to infer the defendant was selling the drug and the fact that Mr Lee failed to caution Mr Chan before questioning also undermined his evidence.