Sanlu Group

New chief of food safety watchdog in hot seat

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 24 September, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 24 September, 2008, 12:00am


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Wang Yong , an obscure name before this week, has found himself in the hot seat as the new chief of China's beleaguered product and food safety watchdog, in the wake of the snowballing toxic milk scandal.

The 53-year-old Liaoning native was named deputy minister of the State-Owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission in 2003 and promoted to deputy secretary general of the State Council six months ago.

From Monday, the little-known bureaucrat was suddenly put into one of the nation's most controversial ministerial-level posts. He had climbed the ladder from deputy director of the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp's political department to head of state enterprise staff in the Central Committee of the Communist Party's organisation department.

His predecessor Li Changjiang resigned on Monday over the tainted dairy products found in almost all big brands. Mr Li had been in the spotlight over contaminated goods ranging from toxic eel in Hong Kong in 2005 to tainted pet food and toothpaste in the west last year.

The beleaguered General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, heavily criticised by China's netizens for corruption and incompetence, is again in the eye of the storm after melamine was added to raw milk across the industry for over three years.

Public pressure was one of the reasons Mr Li, who served in President Hu Jintao's power base, the Youth League, in the 1980s, resigned. Since the Sanlu milk scandal surfaced, internet chat rooms have been filled with messages calling for his resignation.

Beijing-based lawyer Zhou Ze said he wrote an open letter calling for Mr Li's resignation after the Sanlu scandal broke.

'They have this exemption system given to famous brands,' he said. 'The more famous the brand is, the higher the need to check its products, but the watchdog gives these products exemption from safety checks. It is dereliction of duty.'

Mr Zhou said many netizens had supported his open letter by posting follow-up messages and he believed Mr Li's resignation was a victory for the public.

The food and products safety watchdog has also been hit by corruption scandals. The head of the food safety department, Wu Jianping, recently committed suicide amid reports he was being investigated for corruption.

So all eyes are on the new chief of the food safety watchdog and whether he can rescue the reputation of China's foods and products.

On, a person named Cai Wei urged Mr Wang to increase transparency and keep the business sector at arm's length.

In addition to domestic anger, Mr Wang will also have to face mounting international pressure because the watchdog was in charge of the safety of export goods, analysts said.