Official suicide wave creates need for greater transparency

Source:Global Times Published: 2014-4-10 23:53:07

Xu Ye'an, deputy director of the State Bureau for Letters and Calls, an agency to which citizens utter grievances over injustices or disputes such as illegal land grabs or official misconduct, reportedly killed himself Tuesday in his office. The cause remains unknown, but sources close to Xu told media that Xu was not in good health lately.

The case came amid several similar stories that involved Chinese officials recently. Zhou Yu, a senior police official in Chongqing and a key figure in former Communist Party chief Bo Xilai's crackdown on organized crime, was found hanging in a hotel room. Police announced that He Gaobo, deputy director of a construction management office in Fenghua, Zhejiang Province, had committed suicide and it remains unknown if his death relates to the fatal collapse of a residential building in the city a few days ago.

In recent years, there has been extensive media coverage about official suicides. As the Chinese leadership strengthens its anti-corruption efforts, quite a number of high-ranking officials have fallen from grace. This may have served as a lesson for people still working in the officialdom, and for those who did abuse power, this is a life-and-death matter.

Authorities' explanations for the suicide of officials were often that they had suffered depression or poor health. But the public appeared not to take the verdict at face value and believed there may be dark secrets behind officials' suicides.

Officials serve as a bridge between the public and the government and it is normal that their life and behavior are closely watched by ordinary people. When a suicide takes place in a sensitive period and no authoritative explanation is given, speculation is bound to prevail.

This is especially true when China is at a critical juncture of reforms with huge development tasks and internal conflicts among various groups. As long as the root of corruption hasn't been eliminated and the institutional system has yet to be improved, public doubts will always exist.

But at the same time, the public should understand that the social environment for officials is not as favorable as it was before.

As the country's anti-graft campaign proceeds vigorously and demands over officials increase, officials from the top down, while their career future still depends on their political performance, have felt mounting pressure. That's why being an official in China is viewed as a highly risky job nowadays.

Many China watchers have observed this trend in China and pointed out loopholes in the system of China's officialdom. The best way to clear away public doubts is for authorities to publish convincing information relating to official deaths and bring enlightened transparency. Only this way can they restore public trust.

Posted in: Observer

blog comments powered by Disqus