Experts urge details on officials' unnatural deaths 

Updated: 2011-09-28 08:17

By Zhao Yinan and Qiu Bo (China Daily)

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BEIJING - Experts are encouraging authorities to publish more information about unnatural deaths of government officials, including those who killed themselves after suffering from depression.

Ren Jianming, director of Tsinghua University's anti-corruption and governance research center, said the public is more concerned about the causes of suicide among officials than among ordinary citizens, largely because of the power officials wield and the possibility that their deaths are related to public affairs.

Ren made his remarks after Yuan Weiliang, an official from Northeast China's Liaoning province, was found dead three days after a taxi dropped him off near a river on Sept 17.

The Liaoning Rural Credit Union, an economic association that employed the 47-year-old, later announced Yuan had drowned and said his suicide was prompted by depression, a condition they said they knew nothing about.

An investigation into the case showed Yuan had taken psychotropic drugs since 2002, when he began to show symptoms of Parkinson's disease. In the past month, his condition is said to have worsened greatly.

Yuan's death added another name to the long list of officials who recently died of unnatural causes. At least 21 have died from such causes since 2009. Most are believed to have killed themselves due to depression or stress.

Zhang Haizhong, an official from North China's Hebei province who was responsible for demolishing buildings and moving residents, was recently found dead in his office. Police said he committed suicide by giving himself an electric shock and, when that proved unsuccessful, cutting his own throat.

Zhang's counterparts said the conditions he suffered from are not uncommon.

Long Shengyong, an education official in Guizhou province, said he constantly feels stress from his heavy workload.

"I spend most of my time in remote mountain villages with students, because I have to see if the education policy is being carried out and persuade dropouts to go back to school."

He said he thinks about his work long after he has returned home for the night.

"You can call lower officials in China the sandwich class because they have to take pressure from both senior officials and the public," Ren said. "If they fail to meet official targets, they'll be removed from their posts."

While some officials are believed to have suffered from depression and stress, others may have committed suicide to conceal their involvement in bribery or other crimes, or to protect accomplices.

"So it is necessary to investigate these cases and not let the facts fade away with the deceased," Ren added.

Yi Shenghua, a lawyer in Beijing, said movie stars, government officials and other public figures do not enjoy the same right to privacy as ordinary citizens. "The public can't probe into an official's personal life as much they want," he said. "But they do have the right, as taxpayers, to know something about them."

Research conducted by, which polled about 92,000 public servants in nearly 590 cities in 2009, showed that government officials commonly suffer physical and mental problems.

The survey also suggested the pressures of work vary from place to place. Officials in cities that are fairly near a coast, such as Beijing, Guangzhou and Shanghai, are where the worst cases of stress can be found.