Zheng Xiaoyu, ex-head of China’s healthcare regulator, has been executed after being found guilty of taking bribes to approve drugs.
The execution, believed to be by firing squad, took place days after one of his former colleagues was given a suspended death sentence.
Zheng, chief of China’s State Food and Drug Administration from 1998 to 2005, was sentenced to death in May. State television and China’s official Xinhua News Agency confirmed that his execution has been carried out.
He was relieved of his post in June 2005, after being accused of taking bribes totalling more than $850,000. During his tenure the SFDA approved six medicines that turned out to be fake, and one antibiotic caused the deaths of at least 10 people.
Zheng had appealed for leniency at a second hearing on 12 June, arguing that the penalty was “too severe”, given that he had provided evidence implicating other officials in the case.
However, the Higher People’s Court of Beijing rejected the appeal, noting that the evidence “was obtained by the prosecution team before his confession”.
The Supreme People’s Court ratified the death sentence, stating that “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 severity of the judgement against Zheng has stunned observers in the West and elsewhere, but China is unrepentant.
Xinhua quoted Professor Gao Mingxuan of the People’s University of China Law School, Beijing, as saying “Zheng was sentenced to death because the impact of his corruption and dereliction of duty was extremely negative” and his case “highlights how the government should take effective measures to supervise authority”.
Zhao Bingzhi of the China Law Society said it demonstrated “the resolve of the government to punish corrupt officials, and those with high positions and strong power are punished without mercy”.
SFDA spokeswoman Yan Jiangying told a news conference corrupt officials shamed the system, saying: “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”.
She acknowledged that China’s food and drug safety situation was unsatisfactory and supervision needed to be strengthened, adding that the government has set up a five-year plan to tighten supervision of food and drug products to “significantly reduce the number of incidents caused by substandard food or drug products” by 2010.
News of the execution comes days after Cao Wenzhuang, a former pharmaceutical registration department director at the SFDA under Zheng, was also sentenced to death for accepting bribes and dereliction of duty. However, Cao was given a two-year reprieve and seven years in prison.