Tuesday, May 29, 2007

A Reuters news alert dated earlier today reports that a Costa Rican retailer has handed over about three metric tonnes of the Chinese made toothpastes Excel and Mr. Cool to authorities following earlier raids in several Central American countries. Molly estimates that this represents about 23,000 tubes. Whether other brands of toothpaste are manufactured in China is still an open question.
Speaking of China the English language China Daily reports today that the former director of China's Food and Drug Administration has been sentenced to death today for taking bribes and dereliction of duty. The death penalty was imposed on the graft charge, and the dereliction of duty charge resulted in a sentence of 7 years. (One wonders if this is to be served before or after execution or whether his body parts will be held in detention after execution) The bribes taken by Zheng Xiaoyu were worth more than $850,000 US. They were paid either directly or through his wife and son who are also facing separate charges.
Zheng was head of the State Pharmaceutical Administration from 1994 to 1998 and head of the State Drug Administration from 1998 to 2003. He was appointed head of the State Food and Drug Administration in 2003 and retired in 2005 at the age of 59. Some of Zheng's former subordinates presented evidence against him. One, Hao Heping, has already been sentenced to 15 years imprisonment and others are still under investigation.
China has experienced immense difficulties with corruption since its turn towards a market economy, and the ruling Communist Party routinely sanctions anti-corruption drives. Few top officials, however, are caught up in the net and fewer still are executed. Those sentenced to the maximum penalties are usually people far below the rank of somebody like Zheng. Molly has to say here that however deficient the Chinese ruling class may be in efficiency they more than make it up in severity. The problem is that the rot that they are trying to purge is so all pervasive that simple terror does little to stop it.

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