Lawyer Sees Pressure Behind Chinese Milk Activist's Apology

A lawyer says he believes Chinese authorities have forced the father of a child sickened by tainted milk powder to apologize for organizing other parents to demand compensation.

Lawyer Li Fangping said Wednesday that the apology posted on a website by Zhao Lianhai marked a complete reversal from his previous opinion and must have been the result of government pressure.

Zhao was sentenced in November to two and a half years in jail for the protests, which followed China's biggest tainted food scandal. Six children died and 300,000 were sickened by the tainted milk powder in 2008.

Zhao had vowed to appeal his sentence, which angered many Chinese. But two weeks later, he fired his lawyers and authorities announced he had applied for early release on medical grounds.

Zhao said in his blog posting Tuesday that he has received the parole and that he regrets having criticized the government.

Li said he has been unable to reach Zhao or his wife by telephone. But he said he believes the apology was part of a deal made by Zhao to secure his release.

Li said he believes the message "is not a reflection" of Zhao's real views.