Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

No way out through death

By Lin Zhe (China Daily) Updated: 2014-09-22 07:41

Measures need to be adopted to block the judicial loopholes for corrupt officials to escape punishment by committing suicide

Being a leading official in a government department or agency seems to have become a risky job. On Sept 18, Lou Xuequan, former Party chief of Liuhe district of Nanjing, the capital of East China's Jiangsu province, reportedly hanged himself at his home. He was the latest of the more than 20 officials nationwide to have committed suicide so far this year.

Government officials are human, too, and one of the reasons for their suicides is, like other groups, high and unbearable pressure.

However, unlike ordinary people, only 37 percent of officials who commit suicide are confirmed to have been suffering from psychological or other pressure; instead a high percentage of them were suspected or found to have been involved in corruption.

The official who hanged himself in Nanjing was dismissed from his position in June for accepting money as "gifts" from subordinate branches. Dong Xuegang, an official from Yuncheng in North China's Shanxi province, was another official suspected of being involved in bribery who took his own life.

Officials have even committed suicide after they were placed under investigation or been prosecuted in court. In such cases, suicide has become a tool for corrupt officials to escape the disciplinary investigation and litigation procedure.

According to China's Criminal Law, prosecution against a suspect ends when the suspect dies; if somebody is already being prosecuted the case should be withdrawn. Combined with the principle that one is not guilty unless convicted by the People's Court, death therefore has turned out to be a way for corrupt officials, as it has for other suspects, to escape from being convicted of their crimes.

Besides, China has a long-time cultural tradition of respecting the dead and avoiding talking about their wrongs. There is no clear rule, but in practice, the disciplinary and other investigations against a corrupt official will also end in the event of their death.

By escaping from judicial and possibly disciplinary penalties once and for all, the officials suspected of corruption can not only preserve their titles and honor, but also preserve the material gains they have made for their families, since their illegal income will no longer be confiscated. Considering the astonishing sums of money an official can obtain through corruption, that's a good deal for them and their families.

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