IN APRIL 2014, more than 300 children in Dapu town, Central China's Hunan province, were reported to be ill due to lead poisoning, with the finger of blame pointed at

local company Meilun Dye and Chemical Plant. Fifty-three families sued the plant, yet the local government "persuaded" most of them to withdraw the case; of the 13 that insisted, only two got a compensation of 26,372 yuan ($4,112), according to a recent ruling. said on Monday:

Ever since Meilun was identified as the likely cause of the lead poisoning, local officials had been trying to protect the plant. A local official told journalists, "maybe the children put pencils in their mouths". The local court did not accept the case until last March, almost a year after the media reported on the children's plight.

Nor was that the end of local officials' interference and obstruction of the efforts by the victims' families to get compensation. Reports show that every day officials "visited" the families suing Meilun, and sometimes stayed until midnight. They threatened to cancel the minimum living expenses provided to some families and threatened to sack the relatives of others who worked in public institutions.

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