Chinese Food Safety Official Escapes Probe By Ending His Life
Vivian Wai-yin Kwok, 08.13.08, 6:30 AM ET

 

Source of Article: http://www.forbes.com/facesinthenews/2008/08/13/china-food-chief-face-markets-cx_vk_0813autofacescan01.html

 

HONG KONG - While the spotlight has been firmly fixed on the Olympic Games in Beijing lately, away in the shadows, Wu Jianping, the chief of Chinas food quality regulator, quietly killed himself a week ago Saturday. The circumstances surrounding his suicide were said to have involved unexplained assets and money out proportion to his official income.

The 42-year-old Wu jumped off a building on August 2, a day after he was questioned by Beijing Communist Party prosecutors, who had launched a probe grounded upon several reports relating to his personal assets.

Wu had acknowledged to officials that he held several properties in Beijing and had bank deposits of more than 1 million yuan ($145,786), Beijing-based magazine Caijing reported Tuesday, citing unnamed sources close to Wu.

The night after the meeting, Wu did not return home but took his life instead. The location of the building from which Wu jumped remains unknown, nor is it clear whether officials were present when it happened, Caijing added.

Born in Jiangxi province in 1966, Wu graduated from the business school of Renmin (People's) University of China. He joined Chinas Communist Party in 1997 and was appointed to head the Department of Supervision on Food Production at the State Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine in 2005.

Wus department is responsible for issuing licenses for all food products and manufacturers as well as conducting compulsory inspections for product quality, safety and hygiene.

China has been accused by its trading partners of maintaining substandard food quality control. Chinese-raised and -processed food that has presented problems included eel, seafood, pet food and dumplings. In January of this year, JT Foods in Japan, a subsidiary of Japan Tobacco (other-otc: JAPAF - news - people ), recalled 23 frozen-food products, including pork and vegetarian dumplings produced by Tianyang Shipin in China, after at least 10 people in Hyogo and Chiba prefectures suffered episodes of dizziness, diarrhea and vomiting as a result of eating them. (See "Caution: These Dumplings Are Hazardous To Your Health.")

Amid growing international concern about Chinas food and product safety, Wus department is becoming more important: it now has the final say on which factories are qualified to remain in operation. Among the estimated 450,000 food producers in China, fewer than a quarter have food production licenses, according to Caijing.
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