Beijing praises Macau official who fell to his death, calling Zheng Xiaosong a man of integrity
- Head of Chinese government’s office in the casino hub died in a fall at his home
- Authorities said he had been depressed, while police said there was nothing suspicious about the manner of his death
Beijing has praised Zheng Xiaosong, its top official in Macau who died in a fall last week, as a man of integrity in a statement on Sunday.
The head of the mainland Chinese government’s office in the city fell to his death earlier this month, prompting widespread speculation about the reason for his fall, after authorities said he had been depressed.
But one week after he died at home in Macau, the liaison office in the city mourned the 59-year-old as an “excellent member” of the Communist Party, and said he had been “clean and upright” when serving in ministries in the past.
“In office since September 2017 … comrade Zheng worked selflessly despite battling illness and contributed to ‘one country, two systems’,” the office said in an obituary released on Sunday.
The obituary made no mention of the cause of death, or any illness that may have caused it. A few hours after Zheng’s death on October 20, the State Council’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office said he had “suffered from depression”.
No public memorial services will be held in commemoration, the liaison office said, in accordance with the mainland’s official guidelines, and the wish of Zheng’s family.
Zheng will be cremated and his ashes interred in Beijing’s Babaoshan Revolutionary Cemetery, where officials and notable party members are commonly laid to rest.
Macau police earlier said no letter or message had been found during their investigations, and that there were no suspicious circumstances connected to the fall.
Bruce Lui Ping-kuen, a veteran journalist who covered China before taking up a teaching position at Baptist University, said the obituary was an attempt to dispel any speculation surrounding the death, although it remains unclear if Zheng was ever investigated.
“Zheng’s death came at an odd time, as President Xi Jinping visited Guangdong and officiated at the opening of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge, and there was talk even within the pro-Beijing camp, wondering what was going on,” Lui said.
He also said the lack of a memorial service was “unusual”.
“For a high-ranking official, it is unusual not to host a public memorial service to bid final farewell,” Lui said. “It was true that in Chinese custom, the family may avoid this ceremony in the case of suicide … but, if the party wants a public service to be held, it finds a way.”
Zheng was once considered a political high-flyer because of his background in the diplomatic service, and as the secretary of the party’s Fujian provincial committee. Before joining the liaison office, he was deputy director at the party’s International Liaison Department in Beijing, and had been a member of the party’s Central Committee, which elected Xi.
The Macau liaison office has seen other unusual departures in the past, as in the case of Zheng’s predecessor, Li Gang. Li, the office’s third director since 2014, did not attend the annual meeting of the Chinese legislature in 2016, with his top aide saying at the time that Li was “sick”.
While serving as the deputy head of the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office of State Council in 2017, Li was investigated for “severe violations of party discipline” and removed from his post.