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Number of senior Chinese officials dying in unusual circumstances on the rise

Photo: Caixin

The number of senior Chinese officials who died in unusual circumstance has increased after the 18th National People's Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) which was held in Beijing in 2012, according to the country's leading media group Caixin.

In a latest statement, the State Council Office of Hong Kong and Macau Affairs, said that Zheng Xiaosong, director of the Macau Liaison Office, took his own life on Saturday (October 20) by jumping off the residential building where he lived.

The 59-year-old official, who held the post of director, was suffering from clinical depression, the brief press release added.

Zheng's death came just days before the opening of the 55-kilometer Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge, and shocked the Chinese political circle.

China has had a high rate of abnormal deaths of officials at ministerial and provincial levels for several years.

According to a report released in 2017 by the Psychology Institute at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), a total of 243 Chinese officials committed suicide between 2009 and 2016.

In 2014 alone, 59 officials killed themselves, hitting an all-time high during the period under research, the finding showed.

Among the abnormal deaths since 2014, suicide is the most common cause, especially falling from buildings, hangings, and drowning, Caixin reported.

In most cases, such as Zheng's, the families or colleagues of the deceased stated that the death was caused by clinical depression, bringing the mental health of Chinese officials into spotlight.

According to the CASS report, the rate of officials suffering from clinical depression was estimated to be at least 50 percent.

In May, Wang Xiaoming, assistant secretary-general of the Beijing Municipal Government, threw himself from a building and later was confirmed to be struggling with clinical depression for a long time.

In 2016, Ma Lijun, an official of Hubei Provincial Transport Department, jumped from his office building.

In 2015, Jiang Hongliang, assistant secretary-general of Wuxi Municipal Government, fell from a pagoda.

In 2014, Chen Baifeng, member of the Standing Committee of the CPC Weifang Municipal Committee, hanged himself; and Bai Zhongren, former president of China Railway Group, died all of a sudden.

However, a lack of transparency has given rise to speculations about the true cause of the officials' abnormal deaths.

Some people even suggested the government should draft a new policy to set a standard for nominees' mental health.

There were also officials who committed suicide after retirement or while they were being investigated.

Zhang Yang, a general in the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) who served as the director of the Political Work Department, was one of them.

Zhang, 66, hanged himself at his home in Beijing in November 2017 after he was under investigation by the Central Military Commission on August 28, 2017 for discipline violations and bribery.

His death made him the most senior military figure to have taken his life during the ongoing graft investigations among the PLA personnel.

Earlier this month, Zhang was stripped of his general's rank and expelled from the CPC.

"Zhang attempted to escape punishment by committing suicide. This has seriously damaged the Party and the army," a statement by state-run Xinhua News Agency said.

Kong Chuizhu, 61, vice chairman of the Yunnan People's Congress Standing Committee, was sent to the province's Armed Police Hospital after he slashed his wrist, arms and neck with a broken wine cup in March, 2014.

The motive for the apparent suicide attempt is unknown. But media reports said that Kong tested positive for HIV during a check-up.

He was also reportedly being investigated in connection with the corruption case of Shen Peiping, a former deputy governor of Yunnan, who was removed from his post in early March.

Caixin reported that Kong had a close relationship with Shen, as both had been senior officials in Baoshan prefecture for years.

He resigned a few months later and was reported to have died in July that year.

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