The Daily Sandwich

"We have to learn the lesson that intellectual honesty is fundamental for everything we cherish." -Sir Karl Popper

Location: Boston, Massachusetts, United States


Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Yikes. China executes former Food & Drug Chief

I wrote last week that China appeared to be taking their problems with dangerous exports very seriously-- at least in theory. The vastness of China pretty much guarantees that central oversight will be impossible, and American companies working within China have largely been content to turn a blind eye.

Zheng was sentenced to death in May for accepting cash and gifts worth more than $830,000 from pharmaceutical companies. Xinhua said his appeal was rejected because of the immense damage he had caused to public health and safety.

During his time as chief, the administration approved many medicines that did not meet standards, including six fake drugs. Zheng was the highest level official to be executed in seven years.

Five other drug supervision officials have also received sentences for corruption ranging from 13 years to life in prison.

I suspect that corruption in China is probably as bad as the old Soviet system-- or worse, since there's more of a profit incentive. So China is probably doing all it can by making examples of a few high-level people in order to prevent an international reaction and the subsequent economic hit they would take.

Execution, though, is a terrible thing to do. Even though these people made a conscious decision to allow the deaths of others for some money. On the other hand, the United States' own "Duke" Cunningham was convicted of taking some $2.5 million in bribes (among other crimes) and received eight years. And there's that whole Abu Ghraib thing, which resulted in the punishment of enlisted men and the female officer who didn't like what was happening. So while I hope the Chinese officials weren't just handy fall guys, there's something to be said for accountability and maybe even the "deterrent effect" conservatives love so much about harsh, mandatory sentences for everyone but themselves.