A series of failed lawsuits by a Shanghai couple who blame the death of one child and the crippling disability of another on years of pollution near their home highlights the difficult and heartbreaking path to legal redress on the mainland in the face of pervasive government interference. Songjiang district resident Lu Weiming said his seven-year-old son had the mental and physical ability of an infant because of tuberous sclerosis, a non-malignant genetic disorder that can result in developmental delays and mental retardation. The family blames the Zhaohong waste collection station, which emitted foul odours and water just metres from their home from 2002 to 2009, for causing the mutation. The creek near the plastics processing plant kept changing colour and the air smelled of benzene, Lu said. Due to the boy's disability, Lu and his wife, Wang Qin, were given approval to have another child. But their daughter, who was born in 2008, was diagnosed with leukaemia last year and died a few months later. After authorities failed to respond to his complaints, Lu detailed the family's plight on his blog, attracting the attention of Beijing-based NGO Friends of Nature. It introduced Lu to Shanghai-based lawyer Si Weijiang who offered free legal advice. Si helped the couple sue the operator of the waste collection station for the pollution and also the village committee for having leased the land to the business, seeking 855,000 yuan (HK$1.04 million) in compensation. The couple also sued the city commerce department, environmental protection bureau and the municipal government for lack of due diligence. But, they lost all the lawsuits and received no compensation. In March, the Songjiang District People's Court ruled against the couple, saying that while water samples taken a year earlier were contaminated, air samples were up to standard. The court said there was no connection between the pollution and the children's diseases, citing a district disease control and prevention centre (CDC) investigation that showed mortality and malignant cancer rates in Lu's village were actually lower than the district average. The couple appealed to the Shanghai No1 Intermediate People's Court, which upheld the initial verdict on August 3. Lu said the courts had been 'shameless' in accepting authorities' evidence as the air was only sampled four months after the waste collection centre closed. In an administrative review ruling in January, Shanghai's environmental protection bureau said its Songjiang district branch had acted properly because it ordered the waste collection centre to stop recycling plastics in August 2009 and fined it 5,000 yuan. The centre ignored that order and the branch then applied for a court order to enforce closure at the end of 2009. Lu and Wang took the municipal environmental protection bureau to the Huangpu District People's Court, which ruled against the couple on March 9. Three months later, Shanghai's No2 Intermediate People's Court rejected their appeal. Lu said they presented the court with a statement with the fingerprints of more than 100 villagers that said pollution had been plaguing the region for many years. 'But this evidence wasn't recognised by the court,' he said. Only one local media outlet, eastday.com, covered Lu's plight, in March last year. Officials reacted by ordering a media blackout. A local television station that interviewed the collection station's owner - who admitted that it had been releasing pollution since 2002 - not only decided against broadcasting the programme, but refused to pass the important video evidence to Lu. The couple lost two other administrative lawsuits against the municipal commerce department and the Shanghai government. On the mainland, tens of thousands of environmental conflicts break out every year, but fewer than 1 per cent end up incourt, domestic media report, and very few of those cases succeed. Some judges have even told media that they wanted to find polluters guilty, but could not do so because of 'tremendous pressure from outside the court'. Ma Yong , a legal campaigner from the All-China Environment Federation, said that suing polluters was difficult on the mainland because plaintiffs had to prove the contamination was the sole cause of their problems. Lu said he had not expected to be treated so unfairly by the justice system. After the failure of his lawsuits, he petitioned the central government through an online platform, but was soon told that his case had not been accepted. 'Now my wife and I feel powerless, disgruntled and disappointed about this society and government.'