05/29/2007, 00.00
CHINA
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The former head of China's food and drug administration is sentenced to death for corruption

Zheng Xiaoyu took bribes in exchange for the approval of hundreds of thousands of potentially life threatening drugs.

Beijing  (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Beijing Municipal No. 1 Intermediate People's Court has condemned Zheng Xiaoyu. The former head of China's food and drug administration is sentenced to death for corruption. The state run Xinhua news agency reported the announcement this morning, but also the fact that the sentence may be muted to life in prison during the upcoming appeal.

Zheng, 62, was removed from his post in June 2005 for suspected malpractise. .An official investigation that concluded last month accused him of accepting more than five million yuan (HK.1 million) in bribes to grant approvals on hundreds of medicines. The high level official had been expelled from the party in the year 2006.

Chief among Zheng’s accusers is Kangliyuan pharmaceutical group, which has admitted to paying bribes for the approval of  227 medicines, most of them expensive antibiotics. 31 other people are alleged to have been involved in the scandal, including Zheng's former secretary Cao Wenzhuang, Zheng’s wife Liu Naixue, his son Zheng Hairong, and officials at several drug companies.

It is out of the ordinary that a high ranking party official should be condemned to death, but Zhengs trial comes amid a wave of  “continuous scandals” in the country, regarding dangerous drugs and out of spoiled food.

Last month, Beijing was forced to admit to having exported poisonous toothpaste to America and a cough syrup containing anti-freeze to Panama, which caused over 100 dead.  But above all the government has also had to publicly face up to the fact that parts of its agricultural terrain is seriously polluted. 

According to national economists, all of these scandals lead back to the common denominator of a widespread corruption, which has contaminated the industrial and political spheres at almost every level, even governing authorities whose task it is to safeguard quality control and production methods.

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