Ex-official gets death for graft

By Zhu Zhe (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-05-30 07:22

The former top food and drug regulator was sentenced to death yesterday for taking bribes - amid government efforts to fight corruption and rebuild confidence in the safety of food and drugs.

Zheng Xiaoyu, 63, former director of the State Food and Drug Administration (SFDA), was convicted of taking bribes in cash and gifts worth more than 6.49 million yuan ($850,000) as well as dereliction of duty, according to the first instance hearing of the Beijing Municipal No 1 Intermediate People's Court.

Zheng received the death penalty for the graft charge and 7 years imprisonment for the other. All his personal property was confiscated and he has been deprived of his political rights for life.

The court said Zheng's death sentence was appropriate, given the "huge bribes involved and the great damage inflicted on the country and the public by his dereliction of duty".

According to the verdict, Zheng sought benefits from eight pharmaceutical companies for approving untested or substandard drugs and medical devices.

"He failed to make careful arrangements for the supervision of pharmaceutical production, which is of critical importance to people's lives," said the judgment.

Six types of medicines approved by the administration during that period were found to be fake, and some pharmaceutical companies used false documents to apply for approvals, the court said.

The consequences of Zheng's dereliction of duty have proved disastrous. In one notorious case, in 2004, at least 13 babies died of malnutrition in Anhui Province after being fed fake milk powder with no nutritional value. Another was the "Xinfu" drug by Anhui Huayuan Worldbest Biology Pharmacy Company that caused 11 deaths last August.

The safety of food has also moved into the international spotlight after wheat gluten and rice protein containing melamine scrap was exported from China and mixed into pet food, causing deaths of cats and dogs in the United States and leading to pet food recalls.

The sentence, which is considered harsh, could be reduced on appeal, but it is not known whether Zheng would appeal as his lawyer was not available for comment.

The last time China sentenced an official of Zheng's rank to death was in 2000, when Hu Changqing, a vice-governor of the eastern Jiangxi Province, and Cheng Kejie, a vice head of the National People's Congress Standing Committee, were executed for taking bribes.

Both had received more bribes than Zheng did.

The sentence reflects the concern of Chinese top leaders about issues such as corruption and food safety, said He Bing, a professor at China University of Political Science and Law.

"It's a warning to all officials."

Ren Jianming, a professor of public policy at Tsinghua University, said: "What he did has harmed the safety of millions of people and shaken public confidence in government.

"This is more serious than taking money."

(China Daily 05/30/2007 page1)

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