Graft-fighters' suicides linked to pressure of Xi's corruption crackdown

Analyst speculates that spate of deaths could be due to Xi Jinping's tough stance on corruption

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 24 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 24 February, 2013, 5:21am

A spate of recent suicides by local anti-graft and judiciary officials may be linked to a sweeping crackdown on corruption launched by new Communist Party boss Xi Jinping, analysts say.

Ke Jianguo, director of the anti-corruption bureau in Chongzhou, Sichuan jumped from his high-rise office at the city's procuratorate headquarters last Sunday and was found dead at the scene.

There was no word on why he chose to end his life, but some reports, citing relatives, suggested he had been working under huge pressure and had been acting differently recently.

On the mainland, anti-corruption bureau chiefs at different levels of governments are invariably also deputy heads of local prosecution departments.

Ke's suicide followed that of Qi Xiaolin, the deputy police chief in Guangzhou, who was found hanged on January 8, and Zhang Wanxiong, the deputy head of the Liangzhou District People's Court in Wuwei, Gansu, who jumped to his death on January 11.

Dr James Sung Lap-kung, a City University political analyst, said the spate of suicides of law-enforcement officials was a side effect of the sweeping campaign targeting corrupt officials initiated by Xi after he succeeded Hu Jintao as party general secretary in November.

The new party leadership's blitz saw dozens of local and provincial officials investigated or fired for corruption.

"Officials with the so-called political and legal affairs system at all levels have been put under immense work pressure, especially following Xi's pledge to crack down on both 'tigers' and 'flies' in his graft-busting efforts," Sung said.

Xi made the pledge at a meeting of the party's top disciplinary officials in Beijing late last month, saying the crackdown would target both senior leaders and low-ranking bureaucrats in the government or the party.

Sung said it was no wonder that some graft-busting officials were depressed or suicidal. There has been widespread speculation online that some officials who committed suicide may have been the subject of anti-graft investigations.

In a system that lacks independent checks and balances, mainland graft-busters are often vulnerable to bribery, with some having been found to be notoriously corrupt.

Wang Huayuan, the top anti-corruption official in Guangdong and then Zhejiang between 1998 and 2009, was given a suspended death sentence in late 2010 for taking more than seven million yuan (HK$ 8.63 million) in bribes.

"Whatever the causes, the wave of suicides among law-enforcement officials may have just started," Sung warned.