Law remains the best medicine
Updated: 2013-03-11 07:08
By Zhao Yinan and Zhu Zhe (China Daily)
New ministry to crack down on tainted food
Lawmakers and experts have called on authorities to make the best from the planned establishment of a new ministry to oversee food safety and crack down on fake medicines, a move in response to a sharp increase in such cases in recent years.
A total of 11,251 suspects have been charged with producing fake or substandard drugs or toxic food from 2008 to 2012, said Cao Jianming, procurator-general of the Supreme People's Procuratorate, the country's highest prosecution body.
Of the total, 465 were government officials accused of dereliction of duty in several major cases, Cao said on Sunday. These include high-profile cases of melamine-tainted baby formula, toxic capsules and gutter oil re-used in restaurants.
There was a big increase in the number of suspects involved in such cases being charged last year, which stood at 8,138, more than five times the number in 2011.
Kang Weimin, president of the Hunan High People's Court, said there is a growing social awareness of substandard food and drugs.
The latest amendment to the Criminal Law, adopted in 2011, introduced specific clauses related to the production and sale of substandard food and fake medicines, which provides a legal backing to the fight against such crimes, he said.
However, the number of food- and drug-related criminal cases is likely to remain high for some time, he said.
Li Shichun, a food safety professor at the China Law Society, said although the Food Safety Law was enacted in 2009, regulations at the local level have yet to be worked out in many provinces.
He attributed the rising amount of food safety cases to the fact that the law is not well enforced in many places.
Miao Youshui, judge of the Second Criminal Tribunal under the Supreme People's Court, said an interpretation of the amendment to the Criminal Law is likely to be introduced this year to clarify certain controversial clauses on food and medicine safety.
On the anti-corruption drive, Cao said that 30 officials at the ministerial level or above have been investigated for graft or abuse of power in the past five years.
Prosecutors have investigated about 13,000 officials at the county level or above for such crimes since 2008, he said.
During a panel discussion of Cao's report on Sunday, Zhou Qiang, Party chief of Hunan province, pledged to handle social conflicts according to the law.
China is at the stage where conflicts of all kinds abound, he noted.
"We must use a law-based mindset and legal means to manage society and solve those conflicts," Zhou said.
He said the judicial system, the last defense for social justice, must be guaranteed.
"If people have trust only in their social connections, rather than law, (our society) will be in trouble," he said.
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He Wei contributed to this story