Health care and pharmaceuticals

Lessons from Zheng Xiaoyu: "Don't be an official in an important position"

When Zheng Xiaoyu was executed on 10 July, state media ran blistering editorials condemning the former vice-minister for his crimes and urging others to heed the warning.

A document that purports to be Zheng's final reflections, written shortly before he was executed, has been making the rounds of blogs and forums this week. It apparently first appeared on the website of the People's Daily, and it was later picked up by Phoenix TV online. Those copies have both been deleted, and a Baidu search for the document's title, "A final letter of remorse" (悔恨的遗书) currently returns 0 results.

A translation follows:

Note: Because he accepted RMB 6.49 million in bribes from drug manufacturers, Zheng Xiaoyu, former head of the State Food and Drug Administration, was executed on the 10th. The day before his sentence was carried out, he left behind a letter that was made public on the People's Daily website. The complete text follows.

Tomorrow I will "start off on the road." At this moment there are many things I want to say, things that may be "useful" to people who yet live, so I do not want to take them with me. These things are uncomfortable if left unsaid, stuck in my throat like a fishbone; perhaps if I let them out I will feel a bit better.

I was born in Fuzhou, Fujian Province in December, 1944. From that naked little boy I ultimately made good as a national-level official, so I could say my life has been very successful. I did right by my parents who gave me this life. With my changing duties, my official position climbed higher and higher, and time after time I brought my parents and family one surprises, excitement, glory, and pride. Through me, the Zheng family brought honor to its ancestors. However, today I write this to add a "full-stop" to my life; I have become a focal point for national public opinion, I am reviled by people throughout the country, and I have caused my parents and family to suffer great indignity! At this moment, I truly do not know what I ought to say to my parents (should they be aware of this beyond the grave) or my family!

Let me speak from my heart: even in my dreams I never dreamt that I would come to this end. In China, I am the first ministerial-level official since 1949 to be sentenced to death for being guilty of crimes of dereliction of duty. In the 1980s [1979], after the wreck of the Bohai No. 2 tanker, the a vice-premier in the State Council had a "serious offense" marked on his record as punishment. In the 1990s [1987] when there was a fire in Daxing Anling, the forestry minister was "punished" by being removed from office. Recently, when the Songhua River was polluted, things were taken care with the dismissal of the head of the State Environmental Protection Administration. When there was a gas leak accident in Chongqing that killed more than 200 people, a top official at CNPC was also removed from office. There have been instances where death sentences have been given for "malfeasance," like the "Rainbow Bridge collapse" in Chongqing, when a county mayor was put to death, but a county mayor is a low-level official and cannot compare to a ministerial-level official. So when the judgment came down sentencing me to death, my first reaction was shock. But not normal shock! I am a ministerial-level official! I've never killed anyone directly! My second reaction was defiance. I though the punishment was too harsh.

However, what I never imagined was that the public opinion was a loud cry of acclaim. Everyone gnashed their teeth and clapped their hands in jubilation. This led me to reflect - how had I kindled such intense public anger? So my department was so important, my position was so important, the power in my hands had a direct connection to the security of the lives of the masses! Though I had not killed anyone myself, by dereliction of duty and administrative malfeasance I had caused fake medicines to bloom, spawning tragic case after tragic case. This score I must admit to. That I will die today is mainly because there is too much responsibility in my position. If I were in some other bureau-level or ministerial-level position, even if I took even more bribes, I wouldn't lose my head. This tragedy has given me a bit of experience - if you're going to be an official, don't be an official in an important position. It's not the case that more power is better. Additionally, if you're going to be an official, then be responsible! Don't think that being an official is something to "play" at; the consequences of irresponsibility could very likely be a fate like mine!

The determination of the central authorities to fight corruption is entirely evident in my death sentence. When Wang Huaizhong was about to die he said: Looks like the central authorities are serious about anti-corruption this time. My death sentence once again demonstrates the determination of the central authorities against corruption.

What I most regret now is that I should not have gone into government. In 1968 when I graduated from the biology department of Fudan University, I should have continued on in the field. If I had continued on in the field, then there's no question that I would have become a professor long ago. I would be living a good life, and I would not have fallen to today's outcome. If there is reincarnation I will definitely not go into government!

Tomorrow I will "set off on the road," going to another world. What I fear most right now is how I will face the souls of those people I put to death. I pray that they will pardon me, forgive me. Haven't I already received my retribution?

Last words of Zheng Xiaoyu, 2007.07.09

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There are currently 9 Comments for Lessons from Zheng Xiaoyu: "Don't be an official in an important position".

Comments on Lessons from Zheng Xiaoyu: "Don't be an official in an important position"

“The determination of the central authorities to fight corruption is entirely evident in my death sentence. When Wang Huaizhong was about to die he said: Looks like the central authorities are serious about anti-corruption this time. My death sentence once again demonstrates the determination of the central authorities against corruption.”

The Publicity Department would be proud of that paragraph. Perhaps it is.

Somehow, I can't exactly locate the remorse. Self-pity, yes. Remorse, no. Penitence, absolutely absent.

Is this document a hoax? If it is real, then it is a frightening exposition by a top official who asks "why me?" and his only advice to others is, essentially, keep your head down and stay in the no. 2 position. (Wasn't there a joke in this vein circulating years ago about why Col. Qaddafi, autocratic ruler of Libya, didn't call himself Generalissimo? - he claimed that generals are assassinated, but colonels are not a target.)

Is corruption so widespread that everyone from the no. 2 spot on down can collect the cash and avoid the gallows, hence just avoid the no. 1 spot and all will go well? This alleged document would seem to so preach.

In the words of one of the comic characters in one of my kids' favorite movies ("Ernest Goes to Jail"), "There's somethin' bad wrong here, Bobby."

1. He never killed anyone directly.
2. There's too much responsiblity in his position.

Man, I would not want to have been this guy's lawyer if these are his best defences.

I'm not convinced this is real, either. It reads like it was written by a high school student, and not a particularly good high school student at that. Sure, he's a biology major, but even so, shouldn't a Fudan graduate be a little more eloquent than that? Or at the very least, have a little more depth?

10 June? July?

agree with cat. very unlikely this was composed in its entirety by Zheng. If it did come from his condemned hand then the conspiracy theorist in me suspects whether he was executed at all. Told to disappear with a new identity. win-win for everyone.

[Fixed. That's the second time this month. -JM]

I'm pretty sure this is a hoax. For one thing, it contains a major error. Zheng was not sentenced to death for dereliction of duty. He was sentenced to death for accepting bribes. He got seven years for dereliction of duty. It is unclear when he will serve them.
OK, I suppose he may have been carried away by his rhetoric.
The point of the hoax/parody is surely to point out subtly that even if Zheng was guilty, he just did what everybody else did. Lots of people lower down the chain do appalling things which lead to people being killed, but get away with it because they are not in the firing line, and lots of people at his level take much bigger bribes, but get away with it because they are in non-lethal positions.

I agree with Richard. It's an obvious spoof. Just look at the following:

"When Wang Huaizhong was about to die he said: Looks like the central authorities are serious about anti-corruption this time. My death sentence once again demonstrates the determination of the central authorities against corruption."

The whole point is that killing Wang did absolutely nothing to stop corruption, and that killing Zheng demonstrates "the determination of the central government" to continue doing absolutely nothing. Just read it. If Wang's execution represented a real change, Zheng's execution would not have followed.

"Haven't I already received my retribution?" If this doesn't make you laugh at how ridiculous Zheng's execution is - how it totally fails to compensate victims or reform society on any level, I suggest you have little sense of irony.

This is simple mockery. The author is openly ridiculing the government.

"The determination of the central authorities to fight corruption is entirely evident in my death sentence." LOL. Merciless. Absolutely true.

Since I'm firing off fragmentary emails of my lunch break, please allow me to add that I also agree with Todd: there is no remorse.

This is precisely the point. If you read the letter, it is openly accusing the PRC government of being systemically corrupt from bottom to top, and being so shameless that it will kill if necessary to continue prevaricating about it - even though everyone already knows it is lying. No remorse.

The letter asks: what kind of atrocity will it take for this government to feel compelled to tell the truth? It responds: it doesn't matter who dies - this government will never answer to the people.

There is no remorse for any of the victims of the system, former perp Zheng included. The point is that he wasn't the problem, and everybody knows it.

When I read the letter, the writer's rage cut right through me, and the satire spoke with the conviction of total disdain.

Or maybe that's the cardboard talking. Back to lunch!


Actually, "no. 2 position" is even more dangerous, if you checkup the long list of corrupt officials prosecuted in recent years, the pattern is, they are mostly on the "no. 2 position". One reason for this is that the "no. 2 position" is who actually did the dirty job for their superiors and themselves, just like AG and scooter libby, and when the "sky become cloudy", they are scapegoats to be burned. Here's my 2c.

First off, you've got to understand that Chinese government is unlike DPRK where Kim is essentially the king and also different from itself 30 years ago. It IS a authoritarian state but running on a huge political machine governing a huge country, no absolute power now in one single person's grip, instead, the Party's will has to prevail, and to ensure that they need to take public's opion (even to an extent manipulated) into consideration now. So any consideration, political consideration come first.

In Zhen's case, as well as the case of former Beijing mayor Chen Xitong, there are two contributing factors. 1) Is he connected well and connected correctly, in both cases they are connected well, otherwise they would not be put into these positions, then in Chen's case, power shift took place and of course he was corrupt, then came his downfall.

Though Zhen's political affiliation is not clear to an outsider, there came the second consideration: Does situation rises demanding for an immediate political sacrifice? Yes, definitely. The health care reform which abandoned old national health care system and modeled directily after the American system left the whole country in agony with soring prices of medicines and health care, there are too many cases where patients actually died on hospital beds while doctors refusing to treat them because they couldn't afford the rip-off. And over 10000 new drugs are approved by SFDA yearly, almost all of which are just face-lifts of old drugs for a jump in the price. There's a mounting public fury toward government which poses real danger, so the fate of the scapegoat is sealed. (Most of the corrupt high offcials with triple even ten times in terms of the amount of bribes than Zhen's recieved lenient terms.)

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