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Jintao criticises local officials as milk scandal widens

Latest update : 2008-09-20

Chinese President Hu Jintao attacked local officials over the tainted milk scandal that has killed or affected thousands of babies, saying that administrators had lost their principles.

China's President Hu Jintao has sharply criticised local officials, state media said Saturday, after a contaminated milk scandal claimed the lives of four babies.
   
There are "painful lessons" to be drawn from a series of health scares in China, the president reportedly told a Communist Party meeting Friday, as stores nationwide pulled dairy products from their shelves.
   
"There have been some serious work and food safety accidents this year in certain places which have caused major harm to life and to the wellbeing of the masses," the People's Daily, the Communist Party mouthpiece, quoted the Chinese leader as saying.
   
"These incidents show that some officials have lost a sense of principles, of the public interest, of responsibilities, of attention to (people's) suffering," he told Party colleagues.
   
China said this week that milk powder tainted with the chemical melamine, which used to make plastics, had sickened at least 6,200 babies nationwide and killed four over a period of many months.
   
Melamine was illegally mixed into milk products and has also been found in a variety of dairy products including yoghurts and ice cream.
   
It was apparently introduced by dairy suppliers to give the appearance of higher protein levels.
   
"We must draw painful lessons from these recent accidents," Hu said, calling them a "fresh warning."
   
"It is only by resolving these problems... that the Party can build a healthy society for all."
   
The initial reports of the problem only came to light last week in the Chinese-government controlled media.
   
China has a history of cover-ups involving health and safety scandals.
   
In one of the worst cases, China initially tried to deny the existence of the 2003 outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS, and only owned up after it spilled over into other countries.
   
Hu has said the fight against official corruption is a priority in China, where the lack of a free press or an independent judiciary has allowed graft to flourish.

Date created : 2008-09-20

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