Guilty of fighting for justice

What has Zhao Lianhai, father of five-year-old Zhao Penrui who was one of the victims of melamine-tainted milk in China, done to deserve a 30-month jail sentence?

"Inciting social disorder", according to the verdict. Zhao was found guilty on four counts - organising a gathering of a dozen parents of sick children at a restaurant; holding a placard in front of a court and a factory on the first anniversary of the tainted milk scandal; giving media interviews in a public place; and trying to gather people to demand justice for Li Ruirui, an undergraduate who was raped while held in an illegal detention house as she tried to petition against her college expulsion.

It is very clear that, in a country which treats human rights with utter contempt, which upholds "social harmony" (defined in China' dictionary as silencing dissident voices at all costs), his real crime is fighting for justice, not only for his own son, who still carries a stone in his kidney, but also for the other 300,000 victims by setting up the "Kidney Stone Babies" website to exchange views with other parents on how to sue the firms involved.

The irony is that while such a case would most certainly result in an astronomical sum of compensation in a lawsuit if it were to happen in a more civilised country, under this barbaric regime the rightful plaintiff is thrown in jail instead. Even if the verdict is anything to go by, one may well ask what is wrong with a victim's parent organising a gathering of other parents, holding a placard to protest, giving interviews and helping a rape victim?

This is the regime to which so many people have pledged their allegiance and love.

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