A former senior Communist Party official in Chongqing died on Saturday, according to an online news portal run by the municipality, and a deputy of its People's Congress said in a posting that he had taken his own life.
A Chongqing-based source close to the municipal government, who declined to be identified, also told the South China Morning Post that Shui Zhengkuan had killed himself, though the reasons remained unknown.
This was the latest incident to hit the southwestern municipality, which has been embroiled in political uncertainty since its deputy mayor and former police chief was put under investigation early last month amid defection concerns after spending one day in the US consulate in Chengdu .
Cqnews.net, a news portal affiliated with the publicity department of the Communist Party's Chongqing Municipal Committee, reported that a memorial committee issued a statement yesterday saying that Shui, a former deputy chairman of the municipality's People's Congress Standing Committee, died on Saturday at the age of 72.
When asked by phone for details surrounding the death, a staff member with the memorial committee said he did not know how Shui died.
Chongqing People's Congress deputy Zhang Mingyu wrote on his Sina Weibo account yesterday: 'Shui Zhengkuan, former member of the Communist Party's Chongqing Municipal Committee, committed suicide in a luxury villa area for high-ranking officials in the municipality at noon on Saturday.'
Chongqing has been at the centre of unwanted national attention recently after the reported defection attempt by the municipality's former police chief, Wang Lijun , on February 6, which could have an adverse effect on the promotion aspirations of his boss, Bo Xilai , to the Communist Party's top Politburo Standing Committee this autumn.
The futures of Wang and Bo were a hotly debated topic ahead of the annual session of the National People's Congress, due to open today, and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference that began on Saturday in Beijing.
The anonymous source said Shui had been close friends with Weng Zhengjie, owner of one of the municipality's largest security firms. Weng once made a massive donation to a foundation set up by Wang, the source added. Local newspapers reported that lawmaker Zhang accused Weng in January last year of embezzling tens of millions of yuan in public funds and of being involved in mafia-like activities, but no official action was taken against Weng.
When asked about Shui on the sidelines of a Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference in Beijing yesterday, Xie Deti, a CPPCC member and agricultural expert with Southwest University in Chongqing, said Shui had been a senior official overseeing agricultural affairs in the municipality before his retirement in 2005.
When told that Shui had died on Saturday, Xie appear shocked, saying he had not heard the news.
Suspects were arrested in Bo Xilai's crackdown leading up to a mass anti-triad trial