Activists and parents reacted with anger and concern after reports that several senior officials found negligent in the melamine milk scandal had taken up important new posts even though many victims had yet to fully recover.
In 2009, a number of central and Shijiazhuang officials were sacked or punished by the authorities over the tainted milk, with city mayor Ji Chuntang and two deputy mayors, Zhang Fawang and Zhao Xinchao, removed from office. Ji has since been appointed deputy head of Hebei's Industry and Information Technology Department, Zhang is now a deputy chairman of Shijiazhuang's Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference and Zhao is back as a deputy mayor of the city.
At least six babies died and more than 300,000 became ill with kidney problems in 2008 when the industrial chemical melamine was added to dairy products to fool protein tests. At least 22 dairy companies were involved, including national leaders Sanlu, Mengniu and Yili, while food safety regulators turned a blind eye.
The Hebei and Shijiazhuang governments were unavailable for comment yesterday and few details of the officials' new roles were available on official websites. According to the Industry and Information Technology Department's website, Ji, 59, led teams on visits to Guangdong and Sichuan last year.
Activist Zhao Lianhai - who helped parents of sick children - called the officials' return to high office a blow to the many thousands of victims.
'We launched health checks in November and 19 of 39 children tested still have severe kidney stones and acute respiratory distress syndrome, so-called 'wet lung',' the activist said.
'I bet more children will be found with such problems. Many of them now have no proper treatment from the authorities ... The Ministry of Health left us to the China Dairy Industry Association. The China Dairy Industry Association left us to insurance companies and the insurance companies just rejected the children's parents, saying they lacked evidence to qualify for compensation.
'Now the officials' comeback looks like a satire of our vain efforts. It makes victims boil with anger again.'
Parents whose babies died after drinking contaminated milk were dismayed.
'Our suffering is all thanks to the officials turning a blind eye. Why do the authorities still insist on appointing them to key posts?' said Hou Rongbo, whose infant son Hou Haiqi died in Qingzhou, Shandong , after drinking Sanlu's melamine-tainted baby formula. 'Do the authorities think our pain is not enough?'