Tuesday May 29, 2007
By AUDRA ANG
Associated Press Writer
BEIJING (AP) - China's former top drug regulator was sentenced to death Tuesday in an unusually harsh punishment for taking bribes to approve substandard medicines, including an antibiotic blamed for at least 10 deaths.
Seeking to address broadening concerns over food, the government also announced plans for its first recall system for unsafe products.
The developments are among the most dramatic steps Beijing has taken to address domestic and international alarm over shoddy and unsafe Chinese goods - from pet food ingredients and toothpaste mixed with induso trial chemicals to tainted antibiotics.
Beijing's No. 1 Intermediate People's Court convicted Zheng Xiaoyu of taking bribes in cash and gifts worth more than $832,000 while he was director of the State Food & Drug Administration, the official Xinhua News Agency said. Those bribes allowed eight companies to get around drug approval standards, it said.
It was not immediately clear if Zheng would appeal. Under Chinese law, a death sentence meted out by an intermediate court automatically will be reviewed by a higher court and ultimately has to be approved by the state supreme court.
The sentence was unusually heavy even for China, which is believed to carry out more court-ordered executions than all other nations combined - and likely indicates the leadership's determination to deal with the recent scares involving unsafe food and drugs.
``The Chinese government attaches great importance to the safety and security of food,'' Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said at a regular briefing Tuesday when asked about Zheng's case.
We'll see about that.