Official sacked over toxic milk gets new post

PUBLISHED : Monday, 28 December, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 28 December, 2009, 12:00am

A disgraced official stripped of his position over the Sanlu tainted-milk scandal has been picked to help head a national anti-pornography commission, mainland media reported yesterday.

Li Changjiang's return to party politics comes just 15 months after he resigned as head of the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ) over his role in the toxic baby-formula scandal. Six infants died and nearly 300,000 fell ill after consuming toxic milk products.

News of Li's appointment as deputy chairman of the working group on combatting online pornography came after he made a two-day visit to Jiangsu .

The province's official paper, the Xinhua Daily, reported that Li met local officials on Thursday and Friday to discuss their work in rooting out online pornography and clamping down on the distribution of indecent material by mobile phone. The date of his appointment was not reported.

At 65, Li is at the normal retirement age for officials, making his selection for the semi-official post all the more unusual. Li, the highest-ranking cadre brought down by the tainted-milk saga, is not the first official punished to have been quietly brought back into the fold, a common practice in mainland politics.

There was public outcry in May when the AQSIQ said that Bao Junkai , the former deputy director of food-production supervision who lost his job over the milk affair, had been appointed deputy head of its science and technology department. Bao had previously been given a key post in Anhui .

The tainted-milk affair was the mainland's biggest food-safety scandal in recent memory. Two people were executed in Hebei last month for trading in the milk, while former Sanlu chairwoman Tian Wenhua was given a life sentence in January. Three other high-ranking executives are spending five to 15 years behind bars for their roles.

At least 22 mainland dairy companies, including Sanlu, Yili and Mengniu, were confirmed to have been adding melamine to their products for many years. Melamine, which is usually used to manufacture plastics, was added to milk to boost its nitrogen content and make it appear to be richer in protein. It caused kidney stones in infants.

However, parents seeking retribution from Sanlu over the loss of their children were dismayed last month when a Hebei court completed bankruptcy proceedings for the company - meaning it will not make compensation payments.

Xinhua reported that an official statement released when Li resigned said: 'Since products from numerous dairy companies are found to have contained melamine, [it is obvious] AQSIQ has negligence in supervision. As the leader of the administration, Li Changjiang should take the chief responsibility.'