China Milk Scandal Companies Text Message Apology to Millions
In the wake of a guilty plea by 66-year-old Sanlu chairwoman Tian Wenhua in Chinese courts, the 22 companies involved in the melamine milk scandal apologized to millions of mobile users on January 1st via text message:
"We sincerely apologise...and we beg your forgiveness," read the note from 22 dairy firms, led by the now-bankrupt Sanlu, China's state news agency said.
"We are deeply sorry for the harm caused to the children and the society," the text message said. "We sincerely apologise for that and we beg your forgiveness."
17 additional people involved in the milk scandal are also on trial. Wenhua is expected to receive a sentence of life imprisonment, though the death penalty was previously suspected as possible punishment:
Mrs Tian was charged with selling fake or substandard products, for which the maximum sentence is life imprisonment.
She faced a lesser charge than some lawyers involved in the case suspected, and will consequently avoid the death penalty.
Foreign reporters were not admitted the court room, but according to Chinese state-owned newspapers, Mrs Tian pleaded guilty to the charge and admitted that she had covered up the scandal.
While a fund was established by the guilty companies to provide medical support and compensation to affected families, many are saying that $160 million is not enough:
"The government said all the medical care is free, but when it comes to the local level, things change. I have already paid more than 50,000 yuan ($7,300, £5,000)," one man from Sichuan province told Reuters.
"We are here today to claim rights for our babies," Lan Juanxian, the mother of 14-month-old twin sons, told the BBC.
"Our babies have been diagnosed with kidney stones, but we don't know what other diseases they will contract when they grow up," she added.
"The issue of adding melamine into food is a new problem, no one has scientific information or evidence," added 33-year-old Jiang Yalin.
"We are asking for research on how much damage melamine can wreak," she told reporters.