Zhang Guosheng. Photo by china.com.cn
While the mayor of Putian, Fujian province’s suicide yesterday was certainly shocking, it’s been reported that these episodes of officials taking their own lives is part of a growing trend.
In an official statement released by the city’s information office yesterday afternoon, it was revealed that Mayor Zhang Guosheng jumped to his death at 8:30am after he scrambled out of a toilet window. He later died in hospital.
Rumors infuriating Putian officials have spread that Zhang’s suicide was prompted by an informant tipping him off, claiming he was going to be investigated by the city’s Party disciplinary watchdog.
According to Shanghai Daily:
More than 20 suicides have been reported among China’s officials since 2009. Their deaths have fueled speculation they were “sacrifices” to prevent investigations of other corrupt officials.
It has been argued that the sinister trend shows how China’s anti-corruption drive is making government bodies more accountable and their work procedures more transparent, resulting in greater pressure on civil servants. Speaking to Xinhua, Shen Xuanyuan, a Hangzhou-based expert in psychological counseling, said “officials have to be very aggressive in pursuit of higher standards and meticulous enough to avoid mistakes, but such a political eco-system is prone to incurring psychological imbalances if no appropriate psychological care is available.”
An official survey of 272 middle-rank officials in Hangzhou conducted in August 2009 found that 68 percent of the respondents considered they were under “relatively high psychological pressure.” 71.7 percent said work responsibilities, quality requirements, relationships and work’s impact on family life were sources of stress.
Another survey led by people.com.cn and Sina of 3,000 Chinese netizens found around 64% of respondents saw pressure from hidden rules in bureaucratic politics, such as prejudice, services for superiors, personal development and reporting good news while hiding the bad, as major sources of officials’ work stress.
Meanwhile, research conducted by Northwestern University’s Victor Shih suggests China’s state governments are incurring $1 trillion plus debts, in part by relying on Local Government Financing Vehicles (LGFVs) to borrow and spend in excess of their own budgets.
As a result, Business Insider’s Joe Weisenthal remains unsurprised by the news of Zhang’s suicide:
the heat is being turned up on local governments…[they] are saddled with huge debts, and are desperate for the real estate bubble to continue feeding the beast.