Mr Zhao, who used to work for China’s Food Quality and Safety Authority, was incensed after his son became sick through drinking milk laced with melamine, an industrial chemical that gives young children kidney stones. Around 300,000 infants were poisoned and at least six died.
In a small, one-bedroom apartment on the outskirts of Beijing, Mr Zhao started up a website to share information about the symptoms with other victims. Within days, more than 4,000 families signed up and soon the online forums were crammed with discussions about compensation and legal action.
He quickly became the de facto spokesman and lobbyist for all the victims, organising a trip to Shijiazhuang to see milk company executives go on trial.
In his indictment, the Chinese police accused Mr Zhao of “viciously spinning” the news of the crisis on the internet and “inciting and assembling people to go to the courtroom in Shijiazhuang [for the trial]”.
Update: Four people have also been arrested for their role in the most recent melamine scare. AFP reports:
Three of those arrested in Shaanxi were officials with Lekang Dairy Co, China National Radio said. The company had been blacklisted for involvement in the 2008 scandal, Xinhua said.
The suspects were identified as Lekang Dairy general manager Zhang Wenxue and the company’s vice general managers Zhu Shuming and Tong Tianhu. The fourth suspect was Ma Shuanglin, a milk powder dealer.
Ma sold Lekang 10 tonnes of “expired” milk powder in September and October of 2009, China National Radio said.
It said Ma had purchased the milk powder in April 2008, months before the initial scandal erupted.