BEIJING — A Chinese provincial deputy governor and the mayor of a major city were fired Thursday as the ruling Communist Party tried to defuse public outrage over revelations of misconduct by a major vaccine producer.
The officials were among four people ordered dismissed following a meeting of the party's ruling Standing Committee led by President Xi Jinping. It ordered a criminal investigation of a fifth official, a former national drug regulator.
The revelation in July that Changchun Changsheng Life Sciences Ltd. falsified production records for an anti-rabies vaccine added to a string of politically damaging scandals over deaths and injuries due to fake or shoddy drugs, food and other products.
Public anger was fueled by disclosures regulators found possible misconduct by the company last year but failed to take prompt action.
Dismissed on Thursday were a deputy governor of Jilin province, where Changsheng Life Sciences is headquartered; a deputy chairman of a government advisory body who was a deputy governor in 2015-17; the mayor of the drug maker's home city of Changchun; and the party secretary and deputy director of the national drug regulator. The party ordered an investigation of a former deputy director of the drug agency.
Changsheng Life Sciences' CEO and 14 other officials were reported detained by police earlier.
There have been no reports of injuries, but authorities impounded vaccines and suspended production at the company's plant. They announced a recall of products from foreign markets but gave no details of where those were.
The country's No. 2 leader, Premier Li Keqiang, ordered a nationwide investigation of China's vaccine industry following the disclosures.
Later disclosures showed the company blended expired fluid into vaccines as early as April 2014.
The government has set up a panel of experts to review vaccine safety in China's $122 billion-a-year pharmaceutical industry.
This story has been corrected to show that the firing occurred Thursday, not Tuesday. It also has been corrected to show that one of the officials fired was a former, not current, deputy governor, and that regulators who were fired were at the national level, not provincial level.
The Associated Press