NEWSMAKER: Tian Wenhua, industry leader to disgraced prisoner
www.chinaview.cn 2009-01-22 21:42:28   Print

    SHIJIAZHUANG, Jan. 22 (Xinhua) -- The fall from grace of Tian Wenhua , the woman who had headed one of China's biggest dairy companies, was complete on Thursday when she began a life jail term for her role in the tainted milk powder scandal that left at least six infants dead.

    Tian, 66, former chairwoman and general manager of the Sanlu Group based in Shijiazhuang, capital of Hebei Province, was also fined 24.7 million yuan (2.9 million U.S. dollars) at the Shijiazhuang Municipal Intermediate People's Court.

The four indictees Tian Wenhua, Wang Yuliang, Hang Zhiqi, Wu Jusheng (L to R) stand on trial on the court, in Shijiazhuang, north China's Hebei Province, Dec. 31, 2008. The Shijiazhuang Intermediate People's Court accused Tian Wenhua, and three other executives of producing and selling fake or sub-standard products. The court opened at 8 a.m. The four executives are Sanlu's former board chairwoman and general manager Tian Wenhua, former deputy general managers Wang Yuliang and Hang Zhiqi, and Wu Jusheng, a former executive in charge of the firm's milk division. If convicted of producing and selling fake or substandard products, defendants can be imprisoned for terms up to life.

The four indictees Tian Wenhua, Wang Yuliang, Hang Zhiqi, Wu Jusheng (L to R) stand on trial on the court, in Shijiazhuang, north China's Hebei Province, Dec. 31, 2008. (Xinhua/Ding Lixin)
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    It is not known whether Tian will lodge an appeal.

    The Ministry of Health said it was likely the scandal of the melamine contaminated milk products, which centered on Sanlu had resulted in 296,000 infants suffering kidney stones and other urinary problems.

    Tian was born into a poor rural family in Nangang Village in Zhengding County, about 30 km north of Shijiazhuang, in October 1942. The second of six children, she was little known among the younger generation in her hometown because she rarely returned there.

    But Tian was best remembered by older villagers for her diligence and good academic record in school. Her elder sister also spoke highly of her for her industrious housework.

    She graduated from the Zhangjiakou Agricultural College in August 1966 and began working as a veterinarian for Shijiazhuang Dairy company, the predecessor of Sanlu Group, in 1968. Her job then was to tend cattle and sheep.

    She rose through the ranks to become deputy head of the plant in 1983. In 1987, she became the head, spearheading the rapid development and expansion of Shijiazhuang Dairy and later the Sanlu Group, the biggest Chinese seller of infant milk formula for15 straight years.

    Senior employees were fond of saying "No Tian, no Sanlu" in praise of their boss, who was known for her perseverance, low-profile and frugality.

    "I have never lagged behind others in college and work," Tian had said.

    Before their downfall last year, Tian and Sanlu were the pride of Shijiazhuang. Tian was granted more than 100 honorary titles and Sanlu was one of the top 500 businesses in China. The company signed a joint venture agreement with New Zealand dairy giant Fonterra in December 2005, and the joint venture started operationin June 2006.

    Sanlu was the first and biggest dairy producer to sell dairy products laced with melamine, a chemical used to make plastics which was mixed into watered-down milk to give the appearance of higher protein levels.

A cameraman shoots the entrance of the Shijiazhuang Municipal Intermediate People's Court in Shijiazhuang, capital of north China's Hebei Province, Jan. 22, 2009. The court sentenced 12 people in connection with tainted milk scandal on Thursday, among whom two were given death penalty, one was sentenced to suspended death, three life imprisonment and six others were sentenced to five-year to 15-year in jail.

A cameraman shoots the entrance of the Shijiazhuang Municipal Intermediate People's Court in Shijiazhuang, capital of north China's Hebei Province, Jan. 22, 2009. (Xinhua/Wang Min)
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   From Aug. 2 to Sept. 12 last year, Sanlu produced 904 tons of melamine-tainted baby formula powder and sold 813 tons of the tainted products, making 47.5 million yuan.

    It stopped production on Sept. 12. Sanlu, which has debts estimated at 1.1 billion yuan, has filed for bankruptcy.

    On Dec. 19, the group borrowed 902 million yuan to pay the medical fees of children sickened by its melamine-tainted baby formula and to compensate victims.

    Tian was arrested on Sept. 26 along with three other senior executives of the company and they stood trial on Dec. 31 at the Shijiazhuang Municipal Intermediate People's Court.

    During the 14-hour trial, Tian pleaded guilty to the charges against her.

    She told the court that she learned about the tainted milk complaints from consumers in mid-May, and then she led a working team to handle the case.

    She said she had no doubt about the standard and did not ban melamine in its milk products afterwards.

    Sources close to Tian said she treated Sanlu as her child, perhaps prompting her at the very beginning to refute public censure and attempt to protect the company from being severely affected by sealing off products, recalls and other methods.

    It was not until Sept. 12 that she acknowledged publicly that Sanlu's milk powder was tainted with melamine, which finally sent her into prison -- for life.

Former chairwoman of Sanlu Group jailed for life over China milk scandal

    SHIJIAZHUANG, Jan. 22 (Xinhua) -- Tian Wenhua, former board chairwoman of the Sanlu Group at the heart of China's tainted milks candal, was sentenced to life in prison by a local court Thursday. Full story

Sanlu Group fined nearly 50 million yuan over melamine scandal

    SHIJIAZHUANG, Jan. 22 (Xinhua) -- Sanlu Group at the heart of China's melamine-tainted milk scandal was fined about 50 million yuan (7.3 million U.S. dollars) and its former board chairwoman Tian Wenhua was fined more than 20 million yuan, according to a court ruling on Thursday. Full story

Two in connection with China milk scandal sentenced to death

    SHIJIAZHUANG, Jan. 22 (Xinhua) -- Two men in connection with China tainted milk scandal have been sentenced to death as of 3:00 p.m. Thursday by a local court.  Full story

Chinese court to sentence 21 defendants over tainted milk powder scandal

   SHIJIAZHUANG, Jan. 22 (Xinhua) -- A Chinese court is set to sentence 21 defendants implicated in a tainted milk powder scandal Thursday afternoon, about three weeks after trials began late last month, a court spokesman has said. Full story

Editor: Zhang Xiang
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