Corruption kept quiet during Olympics

Customers pick food during a buffet dinner in a restaurant in Xian of Shaanxi Province, China.

TEXT OF INTERVIEW

Scott Jagow: There's been some talk that the U.S. media is being hard on China during the Olympics. I don't the answer to that, but China isn't exactly helping its cause. There was the fake fireworks display. And the girl lip-synching during the opening ceremonies.

And now, something much more serious. A food safety official in China committed suicide August 2. It was just reported today. Our correspondent Scott Tong joins us from Beijing. Scott, why was this information withheld?

Scott Tong: It's still coming out, but it sure seems like this has been covered up or not wanting to be released right around you-know-what, the Olympics that are going on.

Jagow: Was there something that put extra pressure on him recently that might have lead to this?

Tong: Well, the news reports say that he committed suicide by leaping off a building, reportedly, the day after anti-corruption officials met with him about what the report said were financial irregularities. Now, that's kind of Chinese code for corruption allegations.

Jagow: Right, but beyond that, why would that be the case? Why would they not report this?

Tong: Well this gets back to the potentially very embarrassing situation of product and food safety coming out of China. So if you have a situation where there is alleged bribary, alleged corruption involving a Chinese official, this will remind many people in the world about substandard pet food and toothpaste -- bringing back all these questions about China and quality at exactly the time when China's trying to buff up its image with the Olympics. So there would be interests who would want to keep this under the rug -- certainly until the closing ceremonies.

Jagow: OK. Scott Tong in Beijing. Thank you.

Tong: OK, Scott. Thanks a lot.

About the author

Scott Tong is a correspondent for Marketplace’s sustainability desk, with a focus on energy, environment, resources, climate, supply chain and the global economy.

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