China executed two men on Tuesday for their involvement in the contamination of milk products that killed at least six Chinese infants and sickened about 300,000 other children.
The municipal court in Shijiazhuang, in a statement cited by the state news agency Xinhua, said Zhang Yujun was executed for producing and selling hundreds of tons of toxic protein powder, and Geng Jinping was put to death for selling more than 900 tons of contaminated milk.
Dairy producers and middlemen laced milk, milk powders and infant formula with an industrial chemical, melamine, normally used in making plastics, fertilizer and pesticides. The melamine was added to fool inspectors into thinking the milk was high in protein. But the chemical caused kidney stones, kidney failure and other health problems. Children were the most seriously affected.
Mr. Geng sold his milk to the Sanlu Group, the dairy conglomerate at the center of the scandal and the largest of 22 companies that were eventually implicated in the poisonings, The New York Times reports.
According to Guardian.co.uk, all 21 people involved in the scandal were tried and sentenced in January, including Sanlu's general manager, Tian Wenhua, who was given a life prison sentence after pleading guilty to charges of producing and selling fake or substandard products.
Three other former Sanlu executives were given between five and 15 years in prison.
The harsh sentences accompany an increased government focus on recurring food safety problems and an eagerness by the communist leadership to move past the scandal.
However, no public investigation was ever made into accusations that news of the melamine tainting was suppressed before last year's Olympics in Beijing because the government did not want it over shadowing the event.
The choice of the city of Helsinki is not incidental as the capital of Finland had hosted US-Soviet negotiations on the limitation of nuclear stockpiles in 1969