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China executes Drug official

Former agency head was sentenced to death for corruption

by Jean-François Tremblay
July 16, 2007 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 85, Issue 29

HIS APPEAL TO the Supreme People's Court rejected, Zheng Xiaoyu, former director of China's State Food & Drug Administration, was executed on July 10 for taking bribes. A few days earlier, a court in Beijing handed a suspended death sentence to Cao Wenzhuang, another former SFDA official responsible for drug registrations who was also found guilty of accepting bribes.

Zheng was sentenced to death by a lower court on May 29. In his appeal, Zheng argued that he had confessed and that a death penalty would be too severe. During the investigation, Zheng implicated other officials and turned over some of the $850,000 in bribe money he had received.

The court acknowledged Zheng's cooperation but ruled that his sentence was appropriate given that he had "endangered public life and health and has had a very negative social impact." Zheng is the most senior official to be executed since 2004.

China's official media reported extensively on the case but did not specify how the sentence was carried out. In China, convicts sentenced to death are usually executed with a bullet to the head or by lethal injection.

SFDA was created in 1998, and Zheng was its first director. He left his post in June 2005 and was arrested last December. According to China's state media, Zheng approved six drugs that were later found to be defective. One injectable antibiotic approved during Zheng's tenure caused the death of at least six patients and injured 80 others, according to, the main website of the Chinese government.

Shortly before Zheng's execution, on July 6, Cao was found guilty of accepting $315,000 in bribes for approving the drugs and medical instruments of two companies. His death sentence will likely be commuted to life in prison. Other senior SFDA officials have received long prison sentences in the past few months.

It's not clear whether the companies that made the bribes, which remain unnamed, will also be charged.

At a press conference on the day Zheng was executed, SFDA officials said their agency's reputation has been severely harmed by all these scandals. But a spokeswoman said the agency has a plan to improve China's food and drug safety by 2010.



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