The official state news agency confirmed Zheng Xiaoyu’s death, announcing the country’s Supreme Court rejected a final appeal of his original May 29 sentence. Zheng, 62, the former head of the State Food and Drug Administration, was the highest ranking official executed since 2000 and the fourth such since China opened its doors to the West 30 years ago, the New York Times reported.
The speed of Zheng’s execution is seen as a message from Beijing, signifying the need for action against a recent wave of hazardous products that have reached the market.
In the past several months, Chinese-made goods including toothpaste, pet food, and toys sold in the U.S. have been recalled after they were discovered to include toxic chemicals. Zheng himself was accused of approving six untested medicines, including a fake antibiotic that the Financial Times reported killed approximately 10 people.
Zheng’s former deputy in the State Food and Drug Administration Cao Wenzhuang was also sentenced to death Friday for similarly accepting bribes.
Yan Jiangying, deputy policy director of the State Food and Drug Administration, said the corruption charges underscore a need for greater state oversight on commercial products.
“Corruption in the food and drug authority has brought shame to the nation,” Yan said to the New York Times. “What we will have to learn from the experience is to improve our work and emphasize public safety.”
As the world’s largest consumer product exporter, grossing over $1 trillion dollars each year, China worries the recent product scares will damage its foreign trade.
Following Zheng’s execution, officials announced a plan to improve the state’s ability to regulate products, but said the process would take up to five years, Bloomberg reported.
“As a developing country, China’s current food and drug safety situation is not very satisfactory because supervision of food and drug safety started late,” Yan said. “Its foundation is weak so the supervision of food and drug safety is not easy.”