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Guo Li displays a drawing of himself and his daughter that he drew in prison. [Photo by Zou Hong/China Daily]

Guo Li"s persistence was an inspiring example for me

By Cao Yin

The interviewee who impressed me most last year was Guo Li.

Ten years ago, the Beijing native attempted to protect the rights of his daughter-who was poisoned after drinking contaminated milk formula-but he ended up being wrongfully imprisoned.

We mainly discussed justice, but our conversation also touched on love and choice.

We met at the same teahouse in downtown Beijing where Guo met with representatives of Guangdong Yashili Group in 2008 to discuss compensation after his daughter, then age 2, became sick after drinking the company"s Scient milk powder, which was tainted with melamine.

Cao Yin

Later, unknown people within the company falsely accused him of attempting to blackmail the representatives, leading to his incarceration.

Our meeting came on a mid-April afternoon, about a week after Guangdong Provincial High People"s Court had pronounced him innocent. By the time his name had been cleared, though, he had served the full five year sentence handed down by the court in 2010, and had been out of prison for three years.

Dressed in sportswear and carrying a backpack, he was poker-faced when he entered the teahouse. Five years in prison and 10 years of appeals have left him broken, and the 49-year-old walks with the aid of a stick.

At the beginning of the interview, when he spoke about his dispute with Yashili, he was calm. He told me his aim is simple; he just wants to discover who slandered him and sold unsafe products.

However, when he began speaking about his daughter, he became emotional.

Guo and his wife divorced while he was in prison, and since then he has spent more time apart from his daughter than with her.

"I must conclude this case and find the real offenders before I can do anything else," he said.

I was confused. "But you didn"t see your daughter for many years. Was it worth it?" I asked.

He did not reply immediately.

"Do you know what your daughter needs most?" I asked. "Why not compromise and spend more time with her?"

He paused for a while. Then shaking his head, he spoke emotionally.

"I can only take one direction; that"s the road to justice. As a father, I think I have a responsibility to safeguard my daughter"s rights, but that means I have had to sacrifice the time I could have had with her. It was my choice," he said.

During my seven years as a legal reporter, I have met and spoken with people who persisted in the fight for justice. Many have lost everything.

Guo is no exception. He said he wants to explain his fight and persistence to his daughter when she grows up, but he also realizes that the child, now age 12, has her own thoughts on the matter.

Some people have been tortured by their disputes, but they still fight for justice, believing that truth should not be tarnished.

I admire their persistence. If I were them, I would compromise, but as Guo pointed out, compromise is also a choice.

"We must pay the price for our choices," he said.

Contact the writer at [email protected]


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