Chinese Courts Delay Admission of Lawsuits Against Sanlu

November 4, 2008 3:01 pm Last Updated: October 1, 2015 10:42 pm

A child who suffers from kidney stone receives treatment in Chengdu City.  (Getty Images)
A child who suffers from kidney stone receives treatment in Chengdu City. (Getty Images)
Recently Sanlu Group, one of China’s largest milk manufacturers, was served with lawsuits by four Beijing attorneys on behalf of victims of the recent tainted milk scandal in Shijiazhuang City, Hebei Province, where Sanlu Group is based. These cases have been delayed, rejected, or ignored by the courts.

Relatives of several tainted milk victims have said that they feel their cases have been obstructed at various levels of the legal system after an internal memo from high levels of the Chinese communist regime ordered that nobody in the government or legal system gets involved with any lawsuit filed against Sanlu Group.

An Epoch Times reporter contacted Shijiazhuang’s Xinhua District Court to investigate reports of such an order. One staff member we spoke to didn’t deny that it had been circulated. Instead they remarked that in a case that is as sensitive as the milk scandal, the court doesn’t have the authority to make its own decisions and has to wait for instructions from higher levels of the regime.

When asked why the plaintiffs were not given any formal documentation regarding the dismissal of their lawsuits, a staff member replied, “It’s possible that the higher-ups made the decision in order to maintain social stability. We have no say on this matter.” The staff member refused to reveal who the “higher-ups” might be.

Yi Yongsheng is the father of 6-month-old Yi Kaixuan, one of the first victims, who died on May 1 from melamine-contaminated powdered milk manufactured by Sanlu Group. Yi filed a lawsuit against Sanlu in the Middle Court of Lanzhou City, Gansu Province on October 13 and seeking more than one million yuan (approximately US$152,700) as compensation.

According to Yi’s lawyer, Dong Jumming, the suit has still not been admitted by the court. Instead, they have been told to wait for “formal instructions.”

Another such plaintiff is Tian Xiaowei, a farmer from Xunyi County in Shaanxi Province. Tian filed a lawsuit against Sanlu Group seeking damages of 730,000 yuan ($106,772) at Xunyi Court on October 9 over the wrongful death of his one-year-old son who also died from contaminated milk powder.

According to Tian’s attorney, Liu Zhongbo, the plaintiffs have not received any notice from the court in over three weeks. Liu remarked that it seems the court is still waiting for instructions from Shaanxi Superior Court.

“The court hasn’t admitted the case,” grieved a pained Tian. “Whether the regime gives us compensation or not, it should at least provide an explanation.”

Liu pointed out that according to the law, when the court receives either a written or an oral indictment, the lawsuit is to be admitted if it meets the requirements for a lawsuit and the plaintiff has been notified. If the case does not meet the requirements, it should be rejected within seven days of its filing, at which point the plaintiff is entitled to appeal to a higher court.

“We have passed more than one ‘seven days’ already,” remarked Liu.

“What the court has done obviously does not comply with legal procedure. The jurisdiction is not operating independently, it is being interfered with.”

To the best of Liu’s knowledge, no lawsuit against Sanlu from any city in China has been formally accepted. “We feel our power is weak sometimes. We need more people to pay attention to this case so that we can push the case forward,” he said.

Without official documents from the court, the plaintiffs are unable to appeal to the higher courts. Tian Xiaowei remarked, “Only a court under communist rule could act like this.”

Plaintiffs say that they intend to continue to seek justice using different means.

Read this article in Chinese.