BEIJING — A court handed down a death sentence today to a man who manufactured a milk additive that caused thousands of Chinese babies to develop kidney stones, some of them fatal.
The defendant, Zhang Yujun, was the first of 21 defendants to be sentenced by the provincial court in Shijiazhuang, Hebei province, in China's most famous product tainting case.
Another defendant, Zhang Yanzhang, received a life sentence.
The court was expected later in the day to sentence all of the remaining defendants, including the chairwoman of Sanlu Group, the manufacturer of the baby formula implicated in many of the deaths.
Nearly 300,000 Chinese babies were sickened and six died after drinking a formula that had been spiked with melamine, a compound used in making plastics that allowed watered-down milk to pass quality tests.
The defendant sentenced to death was identified in the Chinese media as a technical worker who had manufactured and sold 600 tons of melamine additive under the name of "protein powder" to dairy farmers in Hebei. He and the other defendant sentenced were charged with endangering public security.
"When awful things happen like this, we want people to pay for what they have done," Chen Li, mother of an 11-year-old boy who developed kidney stones, said after hearing the sentence.