A senior Zhejiang court official committed suicide yesterday, adding to a long list of officials who have taken their lives while in the prime of their careers. Tong Zhaohong, deputy president of the province's Higher People's Court, was found hanging in the toilet of his office at noon, court authorities told Zhejiang news portal zjol.com.cn. They said Tong had been suffering from depression for several months. More than 20 suicides have been reported among mainland officials since the start of last year, ranking from county to provincial level. Their deaths have fuelled speculation they were 'sacrifices' to prevent investigations of other corrupt officials. Caijing magazine cited an unnamed lawyer, who was in Zhejiang Higher People's Court for a case, as saying Tong hanged himself between 9.30am and 10am and left a note that described his depression. The note was read to a small circle at the court. Tong, 55, graduated from Peking University's law school in 1980 and went to work in Zhejing Higher People's Court that year. He became deputy president of its economic court and was promoted to deputy president of the higher court in 2000. The death of Tong, the third-ranking official in the court, might be related to the case of Pan Huashan , Tong's subordinate who stood trial yesterday for killing a businessman, the magazine said. Pan killed and dismembered a businessman who had threatened to report him for taking bribes to ensure he won his appeal in an economic dispute. Pan took the money but did not help the businessman. Caijing, citing unidentified sources, said Pan had reported corruption in the system, which involved Tong, who had been taken away to 'help an investigation'. Tong Zhixing , deputy president of the No1 criminal court, has been put under shuanggui, a form of party disciplinary action, and Lou Xumeng , deputy director of the court's executive board, resigned after being investigated.