China's Powdered Milk Scandal
Advice to Chinese Parents -- 'Gather Evidence'
Li Fangping, 34, one of the best-known lawyers in China, discusses the contaminated milk scandal that continues to spread. Despite state pressure to stay out of the matter, Li and colleagues are advising parents of affected babies to gather evidence for court.
SPIEGEL: How many parents have already asked for your help, and what do you tell them?
Li: So far it has been 1,500 families. We tell them they should gather evidence for a lawsuit: sales receipts, powdered milk and doctors' reports. My colleagues go to clinics and pass out brochures detailing how to seek compensation in court. The government is not offering the parents any legal advice whatsoever.
SPIEGEL: Some provincial governments have allegedly instructed lawyers not to take on cases related to the powdered milk scandal. Will this inhibit your work?
Li: Such cases exist, and we criticize them. The authorities have also called us in to tell us we should trust the party and the government.
SPIEGEL: Has state pressure had the desired effect?
Li: Yes, some colleagues already announced that they will leave our lawyers' consortium.
SPIEGEL: The number of sick children is said to be as high as 53,000. How many more will there be?
Li: There could ultimately be as many as 100,000. Contaminated milk powder had actually already appeared in the market by the second half of 2007.
SPIEGEL: Is the state partially culpable for making the children sick?
Li: One senses that the government feels guilty.
SPIEGEL: What caused the scandal?
Li: If there is a big incident, corrupt public servants pretend it is small one. If there is a small incident, they hush it up entirely. Business is used to authorities and the media doing their bidding. Corruption is a sickness that is hard to cure.