Exhausted and devastated after a heart-wrenching day outside a Beijing court on Wednesday, Li Xuemei did not want to wake her son, who suffers from kidney stones, and send him to kindergarten on a windy, chilly morning yesterday. Li had switched off her mobile phone and gone to bed early with her two children on Wednesday, after the court convicted her husband, Zhao Lianhai , 38, of 'provoking quarrels and making trouble' for helping families seek justice for children made ill by melamine-tainted milk. However, she reluctantly woke five-year-old son Zhao Pengrui at 7.30am because she did not want him to miss school. Her mother-in-law, Pan Xiuying , 77, came to pick him up and took him to a kindergarten while Li stayed at home, looking after her one-year-old daughter. Pengrui is too young to understand why his father will not be coming home for 18 months. The court sentenced Zhao to 2 1/2 years in jail, but he has already served a year in detention awaiting trial. 'I miss my dad because he often takes me out to play,' he said while waiting outside the court on Wednesday. Zhao's lawyer Peng Jian , who cried over the sentence on Wednesday, has begun a three-day hunger strike to protest against the verdict and support Zhao, who said in court that he would go on hunger strike. Li would like to join them, but has to look after her health because their children are relying on her. 'I have to look after two children,' she said. 'What Zhao and I do is all for our children.' She had tears in her eyes as she said she often felt sorry for the children, deprived of their father's love at such a young age. 'It [a father's love] is irreplaceable for children,' Li said. The 34-year-old married Zhao, four years older, in 2001 and they lived a peaceful and affluent life for seven years before they had their son tested and found he had kidney stones in 2008. The melamine milk scandal broke after the Beijing Olympics, with six infants dead and about 300,000 diagnosed with kidney failure after drinking milk laced with melamine, an industrial chemical added to substandard milk to help it to pass protein tests. Li and the two children have lived off meagre savings with the help of the 2,000 yuan (HK$2,185) monthly pension for Zhao's mother since Zhao began crusading for the rights of other parents affected by the melamine scandal. They declined an offer from the district government, promising them jobs and free medical treatment for Pengrui as long as Zhao gave up his campaign. 'We had to keep up the work after seeing so many suffering children, and we didn't want to betray other parents,' she said. After Zhao was arrested almost a year ago, Li had to take donations from internet friends, many anonymously. The family stays in an old, 60 square metre apartment that belongs to Zhao's mother outside Beijing's South Fifth Ring Road. The living room is a bit of a mess, with children's toys lying on the floor and on the sofa. Zhao loved to decorate his son's bed with small, fluffy toys. Li's mobile phone has been bugged since Zhao attracted media attention, and the authorities installed a new surveillance camera in front of the building at the start of the year. The local residential community asked Zhao's mother to tell Li not to talk to journalists. 'I won't do what they have asked,' she said. 'I am not scared of going to jail, where I don't need to worry about what to eat.' Parents from outside Beijing have stayed overnight on the floor of Zhao's apartment many times and the couple had to turn their living room into a wide bed for countless guests. More extreme internet supporters have tried to vent their anger at the judge, calling for a 'human flesh search' to find the judge's car plate number, husband's name and other personal information. Others have sent money to Li's bank account.