Thursday, 12 July 2007

China executes drug regulator

The former head of China's drug regulator was executed last Tuesday (10 July) for receiving bribes and approving fake drugs, according to state-run Xinhua newsagency.

Zheng Xiaoyu, who was director of the State Food and Drug Administration (SFDA), was sentenced to death in Beijing on 29 May for corruption and dereliction of duty.

He had been convicted of accepting 6.49 million yuan (US$850,000) in bribes from pharmaceutical companies. Xinhua said Zheng, 63, accepted cash bribes and gifts directly, as well as through his wife and son.

During his time as head of the agency, he broke reporting and decision-making processes for approving medicines, allowing six fake drugs onto the market, and failed to adequately oversee drug production.

The Higher People's Court of Beijing rejected his first appeal on 22 June, rejecting Zheng's appeal that the penalty was "too severe" and his argument he had cooperated with the investigation.

"The evidence provided by Zheng was obtained by the prosecution team before his confession," said the court.

The Supreme People's Court (SPC) ratified the death sentence, clearing the way for Zheng's execution.

"The judgement made by the first and second [court] hearings was authentic, the evidence was complete and the death sentence was appropriate," the SPC said.

"Zheng"s dereliction of duty has undermined the efficiency of China's drug monitoring and supervision, endangered public life and health and has had a very negative social impact."

The Chinese government has acted in recent years to ease public concern about official corruption, with three other senior officials sentenced to death since 2000.

Cao Wenzhuang, the former head of the SFDA's drug registration department, was also given a suspended death sentence last week.

"The execution of Zheng demonstrated the resolve of the government to punish corrupt officials, and those with high positions and strong power are punished without mercy," said Zhao Bingzhi, director the Criminal Law Institute of the China Law Society.

The SFDA said it was introducing new procedures for approving drugs following the two convictions.

"We should seriously reflect and learn from these cases. We should fully protect public food and drug safety.

"The new drug registration regulation, which will come out soon, will ensure the transparency of the drug approval procedure," said SFDA spokeswoman Yan Jiangying.

Execution hampering return
China has been attempting to negotiate extradition treaties with a number of countries in order to bring back corrupt officials who have fled overseas.

But it has found its use of the death penalty for economic crimes posed a barrier in negotiations with countries that do not use the death penalty.

In March this year, China successfully concluded an extradition treaty with France, which, along with earlier treaties with Spain and Portugal, guarantees that suspects returned to face trial would not be given the death penalty.

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