fiction, politics, world

‘China executes ex-food and drug chief’

Zheng Xiaoyu was killed today for accepting bribes to certify fraudulent and dangerous drugs while head of China’s State Food and Drug Administration. The Chinese government hopes that this execution will showcase their commitment to food safety.

A fuller version of this story can be found here. But I found this story so interesting, and odd, that I gave it some thought. It struck me that there are two rather disparate possible realities on this issue, neither of which is likely the exact truth. Neither of these versions are completely factual, but both are possible ways to read the reported facts.

These two different versions of the story follow, retold in short form with help of the original article (which has since changed a bit). My fictional addition to the article are italicized, I didn’t track what I cut out of it.

Zheng Xiaoyu responsible for at least a dozen death’s, state takes necessary action

BEIJING – China executed the former head of its food and drug watchdog on Tuesday for approving untested medicine in exchange for cash. During Zheng Xiaoyu’s tenure from 1998 to 2005, the State Food and Drug Administration approved six medicines that turned out to be fake. One such antibiotic, approved by Zheng, caused the deaths of at least 10 people.

“The few corrupt officials of the SFDA are the shame of the whole system and their scandals have revealed some very serious problem at the head of the old SFDA,” agency spokeswoman Yan Jiangying said at a news conference held to highlight efforts to improve China’s fight against its few corrupt officials.

Yan was asked to comment on Zheng’s sentence and that of his subordinate, Cao Wenzhuang, a former director of SFDA’s drug registration department who was last week sentenced to death for accepting bribes and dereliction of duty.

Yan told reporters that the men had failed to do their civic duties as SFDA heads, and hence have deserved the punishments to which they had been sentenced.

Zheng, 63, was convicted of taking cash and gifts worth $832,000 when he was in charge of the State Food and Drug Administration.

Last year, dozens of people died in Panama after taking medicine contaminated with diethylene glycol imported from China. It was passed off as harmless glycerin, showing Zheng’s failing as SFDA head.

Scandals over contaminated Chinese food exports have underscored isolated problems with adulterated ingredients and fake products in the domestic supply, raising questions of how well China could have guaranteed the purity of food for the Olympics without this execution.

The other story is behind the break.

Chinese government uses Zheng Xiaoyu as scapegoat, executing him to hide systematic problems

BEIJING – China executed the former head of its food and drug watchdog on Tuesday for approving untested medicine in exchange for cash, the strongest signal yet from Beijing that it is trying to appear serious about its product safety crisis.

During Zheng Xiaoyu’s tenure from 1998 to 2005, the State Food and Drug Administration‘s troubled and overworked bureaucrats approved six medicines that turned out to be fake. One antibiotic caused the deaths of at least 10 people, showing clearly that the SFDA is unable to do its job efficiently when being pressed for rapid development by the government’s central planners.

The government also assured athletes, coaches and officials that they could count on safe meals at the 2008 Beijing Summer Games, and that food would be free of substances that could trigger a positive result in tests for banned performance enhancing drugs. With Zheng dead, they stated, no one else would try to make a quick profit and leave their extremely trying job.

Zheng, 63, was convicted by the state of taking cash and gifts worth $832,000 when he was in charge of the State Food and Drug Administration. A clear indication of China’s rampant corruption, which the state is downplaying.

Yan, the state spokeswoman, said she did not have any information about whether the Chinese manufacturer, Taixing Glycerin Factory, and the Chinese distributor, CNSC Fortune Way, had been punished. Yan doubted such steps would be necessary, saying, “with Zheng dead, bribery will cease to be a problem.”

Scandals over contaminated Chinese food exports have underscored chronic problems with adulterated ingredients and fake products in the domestic supply, raising questions of how well China can guarantee the purity of food for the Olympics. While officials say that the worst of the problem has been solved with Zheng’s execution, outside observers said that is doubtful.

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2 thoughts on “‘China executes ex-food and drug chief’

  1. I didn’t realize that they had gone so far as to execute the guy. Wow. I listened to that bit of news about China, this morning, and they were emphasizing that they intended to crack down on “unregulated Mom and Pop” contributors to their processing industry. It felt like a Chinese version of American spin. Then I thought, just like spin, once it’s over, all attention will go on to something else. Nothing solved, or discovered. Just one dead guy, that we know of…

  2. Pingback: Frozen Toothpaste | Of Teddy Bears and Ignorance

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