Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Sad Turn of Events

Zhao Lianhai (centre) has abruptly ended his chance to appeal his sentence
In a complete twist of developments, the tainted milk activist who was
thrown in jail for two and a half years and had pledged to go on a
hunger strike and appeal his sentence has applied for medical parole
in hopes of being released.
Yesterday was the deadline for Zhao Lianhai's appeal of the verdict.
His two lawyers went to the Daxing district detention center on Monday
and hoped to meet with him to lodge the appeal. But instead they got a
handwritten note apparently from him saying they were fired.
"I would like to terminate the relationship of entrusted defence with
Peng Jian and Li Fangping", said the note, and was dated last
Wednesday with Zhao's fingerprint in red ink on it.
His wife Li Xuemei also told the two lawyers their services were no
longer needed.
"I was really surprised to see the note as Zhao trusted us very much,"
Peng said. "As a friend of Zhao, there is something about this that
doesn't make any sense."
Even if the note was genuine, Li Fangping felt suspicious about the
circumstances that led to Zhao writing the note.
"The biggest obstacle is we cannot meet him and we have no idea what
has happened. It was a dramatic turnaround and I can't explain it."
On Sunday the Hong Kong branch of Xinhua tried to sway public opinion
by justifying Zhao's imprisonment, saying he continued his activism
even after his son recovered after getting free medical treatment.
There is no evidence a person, let alone a child completely recovers
from ingesting too much melamine in their system. Surely there will be
health affects for the rest of Zhao's son's life, particularly with
regards to his kidneys and digestive tract.
It's believed the strong support for Zhao from Hong Kong, particularly
from National People's Congress deputies and lawmakers that may have
led to Beijing trying to come to some sort of agreement with Zhao to
make this whole matter die away.
Why Zhao would agree with medical parole is hard to say, but as he has
no job and has been a activist full time since 2008 when the milk
scandal erupted, perhaps there was promise of some kind of employment
and decent salary if he promised to keep quiet and fade into the
background.
Being alone and not having access to his lawyers has probably put a
lot of pressure on Zhao to cave in.
However it is sad he has chosen to take this course of action instead
of fighting on in the legal system to prove that what he did was not
illegal and that he shouldn't have been put in jail in the first
place. Why didn't Zhao want to clear his name?
We may never know.

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