Party seeks info on unnatural deaths

By Catherine Wong Tsoi-lai Source:Global Times Published: 2015-1-29 23:43:02

Widespread anti-graft campaign has put enormous pressure on officials

Chinese authorities have launched an investigation into suicides nationwide of public officials, ordering local officials to report unnatural deaths in the last two years when the sweeping crackdown on corruption began.

An investigation notice, issued by the Organization Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in January, states officials should complete forms to provide information on the deceased officials, including their names, sex, rank and office, together with the time and causes of death.

If the death was a suicide, further information such as the location and method of death, plus the status of the investigation, should be provided.

Officials must try to identify the reason for the suicide, including alleged involvement in illegal activities, psychological disorders, work pressure, family issues or other reasons.

For suicides that took place during corruption investigations, officials were asked to indicate whether the probe was against the deceased or a family member or colleague.

More than 50 Party members and government officials have died of unnatural causes since late 2012, according to a report by Caixin media on Thursday. In the latest case, Shao Jianhua, a former Party secretary of Langxi county in Anhui Province, drowned in a local reservoir on Sunday. Shao was accused of abusing power and bribery from December 2013 to February 2014, The Beijing News reported.

Early this month, Yang Weize, the former Party secretary of Nanjing, as Changjiang Times reported, attempted to jump from the window of his office building when approached by discipline inspection officials. He is under corruption investigation after the unsuccessful suicide attempt.

Since January, governments of at least nine regions, including Zhejiang, Shandong, Henan, Anhui and Guangdong, have put the notice onto their government websites.

Qi Xingfa, an associate professor with the Department of Political Science at East China Normal University, told the Global Times that the rate of unnatural deaths has risen since late 2012, when President Xi Jinping launched an anti-corruption drive targeting both "tigers and flies," meaning both high and low level officials.

"Officials have come under enormous psychological stress since 2012, with some of them suffering from prolonged depression, fearing that they may be investigated."

The spread of the anti-graft probe and sudden arrests have created enormous pressure on the officials who are presumed guilty of corruption, he added.

While the notice says that the results of the investigation should be submitted by January 12, Qi believes it is unlikely that the information would be made public. 

"The data collected will more likely be used by the government to address the problem, as the wide media coverage of officials' suicide cases have cast a shadow over the government's image, and has affected the public's perception of government," Qi said.

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