China’s hardline approach to tackling healthcare corruption is continuing apace as one of its regulatory officials has been handed a suspended death sentence.

Cao Wenzhuang, 45, was pharmaceutical registration department director at the China’s State Food and Drug Administration, from 2002 to 2006 and secretary to Zheng Xiaoyu, former head of the agency who was convicted of taking bribes and dereliction of duty by the Beijing Municipal No 1 Intermediate People's Court and sentenced to death at the end of May.

Cao has been convicted of the same charges after the aforementioned court heard that he had taken bribes worth more than 2.4 million yuan (almost $316,000). The court said he "sought benefits" for two pharmaceutical companies based in Jilin and Guangdong provinces by approving their products during his tenure as head of the department of drug registration at the SFDA.

Cao was sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve and seven years in prison for dereliction of duty, according to the China’s official Xinhua News Agency, which noted that all his personal property has been confiscated and “he has been deprived of his political rights for life”. The court said the death penalty was warranted given the "huge bribes involved, and his refusal to confess during the first hearing and reluctance to return the money". However, as he provided evidence which helped with the investigation of other cases, he got the two-year reprieve.

Meantime his ex-boss Zheng recently appealed his death sentence, saying that the verdict is too harsh given that he has co-operated in full with investigators and confessed his crimes. He was convicted of taking cash and gifts worth 6.49 million yuan, or around $832,000, and during his tenure at SFDA chief, from 1998 to 2005, the agency approved six drugs that turned out to be fake.