Ai Weiwei’s New Exhibit Recalls Milk Scandal

Created: 2013-05-17 14:51 EST

Category: China

Baby formula is a sensitive topic in China. Mention it and the first thing that often comes to mind is the 2008 melamine tainted milk scandal. It killed and sickened infants throughout China.

So when Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei made a map out of 1,800 cans of baby formula, it was sure to turn some heads.

This is from a new exhibit that opened today in Hong Kong. The tainted milk scandal has a slightly different meaning here. Quality fears in China has resulted in a rush on Hong Kong-made baby formula—often leaving Hong Kong mothers and infants wanting.

The situation has gotten so bad that Hong Kong has set limits on how much baby formula people can buy and take with them. Those who go above the 4 pound limit face fines of up to $64,000 and two-year jail sentences.

Of course, Ai Weiwei’s exhibit has also taken 1800 cans of Hong Kong baby formula off the market.

The run on milk is not limited to Hong Kong. Shops in Australia and the UK have also reported a rise in Chinese tourists purchasing milk formula and shipping them back to China.

The high demand for milk formula in China comes from the fact that only 28% of Chinese mother breastfeed their children, according to a 2012 UNICEF report. This low rate is being blamed on maternity leave time limits and heavy promotion of formula.