Official's death sentence a warning - paper

Updated: 2007-05-31 11:07

BEIJING - China said on Thursday that the death sentence given to the former head of its drug and food watchdog for corruption was a warning to top officials.

Zheng Xiaoyu, former head of the State Food and Drug Administration, faces execution after a Beijing court on convicted him on Tuesday of graft and dereliction of duty.

He left his post before a recent wave of medicine safety scandals engulfed China. But state media have acclaimed the unusually harsh sentence as showing the Communist Party's determination to purge corruption.

A commentary in the People's Daily, the party's official paper, said Zheng's fate was a lesson to other officials.

"As a case study of a party member and leading official breaking the law and committing crime, the Zheng Xiaoyu case offers profound lessons that all public servants, especially leading officials at every level, should take to heart," the paper said.

The warning was issued by a "specially commissioned commentator", a sourcing that suggests the editorial was on behalf of national leaders.

Zheng, 62, head of the drug and food agency from 1998 to 2005, took bribes worth some 6.5 million yuan ($850,000) from eight companies.

During his tenure, dozens died in China from fake or bad drugs and food products. In one of the most notorious cases, in 2004, at least 13 babies died of malnutrition in Anhui province after being fed fake milk powder with no nutritional value.

"Any conduct that hurts the people's interests, any shirking or perfunctoriness, any dereliction of duty will not be tolerated and must be punished," the commentary in the People's Daily warned.

Officials also had to ensure that their families and staff did not abuse their closeness to power, it said.

In a separate report, the People's Daily said many of the country's million or more food processing businesses lacked standardised production required by regulations.

An unnamed State Food and Drug Administration official told the paper that the agency would strengthen checks for toxins, pesticides and unapproved additives in foods.

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