Chinese Justice

The recent head of China's State Food and Drug Administration was executed today.  Zheng Xiaoyu, 63, was convicted of accepting bribes constituting $800,000 U.S. to approve tainted and dangerous products, and sentenced to death in May.

As an American, who is used to people sitting on death row for years if not decades, the news came as a shock. Even by Chinese standards the execution was swift,  designed to tell the world that China was taking the recent export scandals seriously.  Designed to save Chinese face preceding the Olympics and the Chinese economy in general.

I am seriously torn.  On the one hand, I decry capital punishment for whatever offense.  On the other hand, his greed has negatively impacted so many lives. Antifreeze in toothpaste.  Children exposed to lead paint.  Contaminated pet food that killed thousand of pets worldwide, including in the U.S.  And that's when the Chinese government started paying attention.  Because before that the same corruption had led to useless drugs and contaminated baby formula that killed thousands of people in China.  But Chinese government officials did not care until their exports were threatened.

Given that blue collar crime so often results in harsher punishments, part of me agrees that a white collar crime that results in so many deaths should receive the same.

He lost his life for $800,000.  Was it worth it?  Thousands of others died for $800,000.  Was it worth it?    The immorality of that equation is astounding.

But still the execution leaves me feeling sick.

As Sen. Chuck Schumer said, "If China thinks that its issues with food and product safety are going to be fixed with these types of executions, it shows how much they just don't get it."

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Acknowledgments is made possible in part by generous support from the Fahs Collaborative