Suspicious death of Zhejiang official sparks investigation

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 03 May, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 03 May, 2009, 12:00am

A middle-ranking official in Zhejiang died in suspicious circumstances yesterday, two days after another official in the province was killed in a freak car accident.

Vice-mayor of Huzhou Ni Lingmei, 50, was confirmed dead after falling 29 floors from a residential tower at Xinghai Mingcheng, a luxury housing estate in the city, at about 1am, a notice released by the Huzhou municipal information office said.

It was not clear if Ni lived on that estate or what caused her fall. The information office refused to disclose details beyond what it released in the public statement.

It said that the incident had attracted the attention of party leaders in the provincial capital Hangzhou . The government had established a special taskforce directly under the local party office to investigate the case.

This indicates Ni's death was probably not suspected to be an accident and the authorities deem the situation serious enough to investigate.

Ni, a native of Huzhou and a graduate from the Central School of the Communist Party, was in charge of science technology, education, health, culture, sport, broadcasting and birth control in the city.

Her latest public appearance was during an inspection tour to a village in Anji county of Huzhou in March.

Ni's death came just two days after a deputy county director in nearby Wencheng county was killed in a traffic accident, the Wenzhou-based Morning Express reported.

Liu Huakan , 36, and his driver were critically injured after their car collided with another vehicle on a highway. The collision was so violent that Liu's car was almost destroyed.

The driver of the other car drove away after the accident. Police are still looking for the driver.

Liu and his driver were declared dead on arrival at a local hospital.

Zhejiang officials have been involved in a string of incidents recently. Late last month, the deputy mayor of Hangzhou, Xu Maiyong , was fired and placed under investigation for a 'serious disciplinary violation', which was believed to be related to allegations of corruption, Xinhua said.

Mr Xu's dismissal was followed by an investigation into the head of the province's anti-corruption watchdog, Wang Huayun, apparently also on corruption charges. There is no evidence suggesting that the cases were related.