BEIJING A Chinese court sentenced a man to life in prison on Monday for poisoning frozen dumplings more than six years ago at the plant where he worked, making ill four Chinese and nine Japanese consumers and further straining ties between the two countries.
The court in the northern city of Shijiazhuang found Lu Yueting, 39, guilty of adding dangerous substances to food, the official Xinhua news agency reported.
Lu, who worked at the Tianyang Food Plant, hoped he could "attract the attention of his managers in order to boost his salary" by injecting insecticide into the frozen dumplings with syringes, Xinhua reported, based on court proceedings. He sneaked into the factory's refrigerated storehouse three times between October and December 2007 to carry out the deed.
After reports of the poisoning surfaced, Chinese security and quality wathdogs initially blamed Japanese "sabotage" for contaminating the dumplings.
The sentence coincides with worsening ties between Asia's two largest economies. Tensions have focused on a row over a group of islands in the East China Sea claimed by both countries as well as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit last month to a controversial shrine for war dead.
Chinese police detained Lu in March 2010, Xinhua reported. Lu confessed to the crime during his July 2013 trial, saying he felt sorry for the people he had made ill.
Food safety scandals, from chemical-laced dairy products to recycled "gutter oil" used in cooking, have plagued Chinese companies and weighed on consumer confidence in China and abroad.
The verdict was delivered with officials from the Japanese embassy in Beijing in attendance, Xinhua reported.
(Reporting By Megha Rajagopalan; Editing by Ron Popeski)