Tainted milk whistle-blower dies after beating

Jiang Weisuo, famed for repeatedly exposing malpractice in the dairy industry, is laid to rest after succumbing to injuries following beating

PUBLISHED : Friday, 23 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 23 November, 2012, 3:13am

A man who earned nationwide fame as a whistle-blower exposing malpractice in the mainland dairy industry is dead from injuries he sustained in a beating earlier this month, leading to speculation that he was killed for his efforts.

Jiang Weisuo, a 44-year-old general manger of a milk-collection station in the northwestern province of Shaanxi, died in Xian on November 14 and was laid to rest on Wednesday, the Guangzhou-based Southern Metropolis Daily reported. Domestic media had billed him as the top whistle-blower for scandals related to the dairy industry because of his repeated exposures of malpractice in the northern region, dating back to 2006.

That year, the former farmer revealed that the owner of another milk-collection station in Shaanxi used a washing machine to mix together foreign substances such as antibiotics, hydrogen peroxide, nitrates and protein powder, which he then added to batches of fresh milk collected from farmers, before selling the concoction to dairy companies.

Two years later, a more serious dairy scandal emerged when other whistle-blowers discovered that mainland producers of baby formula were lacing products with melamine - an industrial chemical used to make it appear that the milk had a higher protein content. Six infants died and about 300,000 were sickened with kidney problems. The incident bought consumer confidence in the industry to an all-time low, and the dairy sector still remains plagued by safety-related problems.

A propaganda official with the Xian Public Security Bureau told the South China Morning Post yesterday that police had detained a suspect in connection with the November 2 beating of Jiang. The official declined to give his name or say exactly when the man was caught, but he said the case remained under investigation and the suspect's motives were unclear.

Jiang became angry in 2006 when he discovered that most of his milk-collection counterparts were putting additives in milk and being paid more by dairy companies in the province, while he refused to adulterate his milk.

The next year, he spent about 300,000 yuan (HK$370,000) surveying milk farmers in the north, and concluded in a published book that milk companies in the region had deep-seated problems regarding milk quality.

He remained a controversial figure in the dairy industry, with some industry players blaming him for defaming the entire mainland industry. Others accused him of blackmail.

A marketing department staff member at the Jiang Weisuo dairy company, which Jiang established in Shaanxi in 2008, said yesterday that the firm was operating normally.

Cao Mingshi, deputy secretary general of the Shanghai Dairy Association, told the Post that Jiang had been one of the industry figures who "still possessed a conscience".