China media: Chinese liquor scandal

Traditional jars piled up at a Chinese winery in Zhejiang province (file photo) Baijiu is a popular liquor in China

Newspapers react to the news that most locally-produced Baijiu contains potentially harmful chemicals, as government tests confirmed a brand of the Chinese liquor contained plasticisers.

Baijiu is a common distilled white liquor in China made from sorghum and other grains. Plasticisers are chemicals that can harm human immune and reproductive systems.

The Global Times and Shanghai Daily report the quality watchdog in Hunan province detected plasticisers in samples of a leading brand of Baijiu. Reports say the authorities urged the company to determine the source of contamination.

China Alcoholic Drinks Association has defended the firm, saying there was no legislation limiting the amount of plasticisers in Baijiu.

The Beijing Times and Shanghai Morning Post say local officials told the official Xinhua news agency that the amount of plasticisers detected were two times the limit set by the Health Ministry.

However, the officials also said the Health Ministry's standard was set for the food industry and it was not legally binding.

People's Daily says containers could also be the source of plasticisers, according to health officials, and normal consumption of Baijiu would not threaten people's health.

Guangzhou's 21st Century Business Herald - which first reported the issue - says a compulsory food safety standard will hopefully be announced within the next two years by the ministry, but experts said it would be hard to set up a standardised test method for Baijiu.

Also on Thursday, China Daily and the Global Times report more reshuffles in the Communist Party, including party heads in provinces and municipalities.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong's Sing Tao Daily says a speech by Zhang Chunxian, the new Politburo member, hints he may stay as party chief in the restive Xinjiang region.

China Daily and People's Daily also report Premier Wen Jiabao's visit to Thailand. Ming Pao Daily News and Sing Tao Daily say Mr Wen recited a poem by late Chinese poet Qu Yuan, saying people should maintain their honesty and integrity even when they die, as he met local Chinese community representatives.

The Hong Kong papers say Mr Wen recited the poem in an apparent defence of the allegation made by the New York Times in October that he and his family had amassed billions of dollars.

There are more developments over the death of five street children in Guizhou. The Global Times reports Beijing rights lawyer Li Fangping and his colleague have asked police in Bijie city to explain what they knew about the boys before they died, as their parents had reported them missing 11 days before the tragedy.

Shanghai Morning Post reveals the boys' family background, saying they lacked parenting, while the head teacher - now suspended by the local government - insisted the school had done all it could for the children.

The Global Times' bilingual editorial says: "The livelihood cases exposed by the media are all national tragedies. They provide a driving force from the grass roots to solve these problems."

"But if public opinion only focuses on criticising the national system, there will be more confusion rather than reflection."

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