Tools: Save | Print | E-mail | Most Read
Widow Wages Lone Battle Against the Bottle
Adjust font size:

For the last 10 years, Wang Ying has been talking to her husband, Zhang Guangpu, in her dreams he died due to excessive drinking.


"Everyone should know of the harms excessive drinking can cause," said the 52-year-old teacher of political science at Xuchang Broadcasting University in central China's Henan Province.


Zhang, a government official, died in 1997, and since then, Wang has been waging a battle against breweries to publicize the dangers of heavy drinking.


"The face of my dying husband is etched in my memory. I will continue my mission to reveal the harmful effects of alcohol," Wang told China Daily.


She wants all breweries to label their products with a warning, just as tobacco manufacturers are required to do.


Wang's battle has so far met with only partial success. 


The General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (GAQSIQ) recommended in 2005 that all alcoholic products should be labeled "extreme drinking is harmful to your health".


However, in September last year, the GAQSIQ decided to postpone implementation for a year, following complaints by breweries and distillers they had huge stocks of old labels to use up.


Wang and Zhang initially had a happy and peaceful life in Wugang of central China's Henan Province.


But that happiness was soon shattered by Zhang's heavy drinking which led to numerous quarrels between the couple.


"I could not persuade him to give up, so I read medical books about the dangers of alcohol," Wang said.


She found that the World Health Organization (WHO) and authoritative medical institutions had listed dozens of harmful additives in alcohol.


"But when I thought I had enough evidence to convince my husband to give up drinking, he suddenly suffered an acute pancreas disease, and died two days later in hospital," Wang said.


She subsequently leant there had been a number of deaths in her neighborhood from diseases related to excessive drinking of alcohol.


"I decided that I had to do something about it," Wang said.


In March 1998, encouraged by consumer rights activists, Wang filed a lawsuit in Luohe Intermediary Court against Henan-based Fupingchun Brewery, whose Fupingchun beer was her husband's favorite brand.


Wang sought compensation of 600,000 yuan ($75,000) for her husband's death, products to bear labels that "drinking is harmful to your health" and a listing of each product's contents.


"If the court ruled one brewery to list the harmful effects, others would follow," said Wang, adding that the large amount of compensation she sought would also act a deterrent to other breweries.


She admitted her request for "drinking alcohol is harmful to your health" labels was the first of its kind.


"But since tobacco manufacturers are compelled to have such labels, why can't we do the same thing for alcohol?" Wang said.


As a registered lawyer, Wang did not initially see the need to hire another lawyer. Later, she changed her mind.


She halved her compensation claim to save on litigation fees, and hired a lawyer.


The lawyer suggested Wang only pursue the compensation claim, as the warning labels request "looked too unrealistic to achieve".


But Wang insisted. She prepared a 17-page indictment, listing the various harmful effects of drinking.


In an interview by China's Central Television (CCTV), the ruling judge, who declined to appear on camera, at Wang's first hearing admitted it was the first such case he had ever heard.


"Everyday I would receive a letter from Wang, containing new evidence against drinking," the judge told CCTV.


Wang lost her first case in early 1999. The court said she could not prove that the brewery was at fault and there existed no State regulation requiring breweries to label the dangers of drinking.


In an interview with CCTV, a representative of the accused brewery argued that everyone knows excessive drinking causes harm, just like excessive eating. This is a common fact that no one pays too much attention to.


But Wang was not convinced.


"The Consumer Rights Protection Law requires other producers of goods to list the harmful and potentially harmful contents of their products. I think we just cannot abandon this requirement for breweries simply because there is no stated regulation," she said.


She filed an appeal to the Henan Supreme Court, and after losing the appeal three months later, she submitted an application for a re-ruling to the Supreme People's Court. The court asked the Henan Supreme Court to review the case, and in early 2000, Wang once again lost.


Again these failures did not deter Wang.


"At first, I was limiting the case more to myself and felt less confident, but with the repeated appeals and rulings, I collected more evidence and my will to liberate people from the ignorance of the dangers of alcohol became firmer," she said.


Wang started collecting evidence on the harmful effect of alcohol from news reports and by interviewing victims and their relatives.


However, she found few were willing to talk because of the shame.


"This situation illustrates victims and their relatives would rather reproach themselves than the breweries," Wang said.


While litigation was still going on, Wang submitted a letter to the State Quality and Technology Supervision Bureau the predecessor of GAQSIQ in late 1998, requiring breweries to indicate the harms of drinking.


A bureau official replied thanking Wang for her letter, but pointed out there was no such labeling worldwide, so this could not be done in China.


Wang then repeatedly wrote letters to the bureau and its successor GAQSIQ. Most went unanswered.


She also adopted other strategies.


After Wang lost the first round of hearings against Fupingchun Brewery, she filed an application to the National Trademark Commission, asking it to revoke the trademark of the brewery.


"Fupingchun's literal meaning is rich, peace and youth, but how can a harmful thing like alcohol bring rich, peace and youth to people?" Wang said.


Wang's application was rejected in June by the commission, and she immediately sued the commission in the Beijing Intermediary Court for nonfeasance.


Wang lost the case last month.


In November, Wang also sued GAQSIQ in the Beijing Intermediary Court for its decision to postpone the implementation of labeling.


She also lost that case, knowing she did not stand a chance of winning.


"In a sense, my repeated litigation failures have advanced consumer protection and the progress of the rule of law in China.


"My failures have made people aware there are legal ways to achieve a just cause," Wang said.


(China Daily January 10, 2007)

Tools: Save | Print | E-mail | Most Read

Related Stories
Beijing Bans Alcohol Sales to Minors
Draft Law Bans Sale of Alcohol and Tobacco to Minors
Traders Face Fines for Alcohol Sales to Minors
Minors Alcohol Ban Not Working Well

Product Directory
China Search
Country Search
Hot Buys
SiteMap | About Us | RSS | Newsletter | Feedback
Copyright © All Rights Reserved     E-mail: Tel: 86-10-88828000 京ICP证 040089号