Chinese Police Haul Off “Bad Vaccine” Protesters

August 17, 2006 12:00 am Last Updated: August 17, 2006 12:00 am

BEIJING — Police on Thursday hauled off a small group of people who had tried to protest in Beijing's Tiananmen Square over what they said were bad vaccines which had crippled their children, one of the demonstrators said.

They say that their sons and daughters were vaccinated against Japanese encephalitis B in 2003 in the southern province of Guangdong, and that the vaccine paralysed the children.

The Chinese Health Ministry told Reuters last month that officials had found no problem with the vaccines.

But that failed to convince the families, some of whom gathered in front of the big clock in the square counting down the days to the opening of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Police briefly detained a reporter who tried talking to them, saying they were “not ordinary tourists”, although the police said they did not know who they were.

“We were taken away by the police a little while ago,” Liang Yongli, father of one of the children, told Reuters by mobile telephone. “I don't know where we are but there seem to be lots of people like us here.”

They were released later in the day, said Yu Tongan, another of the protesters.

“We just want some answers from the government about the vaccines,” he said by telephone. “They don't want foreigners to know about this stuff.”

Yu added that the police had told him officials from their hometown of Jiangmen would come up to Beijing and escort them back on Friday.

Tiananmen, scene of a bloody government crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators in 1989, is a magnet for popular protest.

People from all over China flock to Beijing to seek redress from the central government over perceived wrongs suffered in the provinces, and many come to the various government offices round the square.

Fake or bad drugs have killed dozens of people in China in recent years and raised questions about drug safety.

Public fears grew in 2004 after China revealed that at least 13 babies had died of malnutrition in the eastern province of Anhui after being fed fake baby milk with no nutritional value.