China food safety activist gets 2.5 years

In 2008, six children died and nearly 300,000 were sickened by baby formula tainted with melamine. The industrial chemical, used in the manufacture of plastics and fertilizer, was added to watered-down milk to increase profits and fool inspectors testing for protein. Several dairy industry figures were prosecuted and punished, including three people given the death penalty.

Zhao Lianhai (right, exactly as shown) pushed for greater official accountability and compensation for victims and their families after the 2008 scandal that had Chinese officials repeatedly saying they’d do better at food safety basics. He organized a website to collect information about the poisonings, and was taken away by police in November 2009.

Wire services are reporting that Lianhai has now been sentenced to 2.5 years in prison after being found guilty of inciting social disorder.

Lawyer Li Fangping said,

"The crimes he was accused of were nothing more than what regular citizens would do to defend their rights."

Li said prosecutors leveled three charges against Zhao: That he organized a gathering of a dozen parents of sick children at a restaurant, held a paper sign in front of a court and factory involved in the scandal as a protest, and gave media interviews in a public place.