A disgraced Chinese general under investigation for corruption hanged himself at his Beijing home last Thursday, becoming the highest-ranking official to commit suicide amid Xi Jinping’s anti-graft campaign.
The suicide of 66-year-old Zhang Yang (张阳) was reported by China’s official Xinhua news agency on Tuesday. He was a member of the country’s powerful Central Military Commission, the highest military branch of the Communist Party government.
According to Xinhua, Zhang was called to meet with the body on August 28th to investigate his alleged involvement with a pair of disgraced former CMC generals, Xu Caihou and Guo Boxiong. Xu died of cancer in 2015 at the age of 72 while in custody after confessing to taking bribes. Guo, 75, is currently serving a life sentence in jail for corruption.
Zhang was replaced at his post in August and reportedly had been living at home while police looked into his suspected “serious disciplinary violations,” CCP parlance for corruption. Xinhua said that Zhang had taken bribes, amassing “enormous property holdings of unknown origin.” He was conspicuously absent at last month’s 19th Party Congress in Beijing.
On Tuesday, the website of the official PLA Daily carried an article which called Zhang’s suicide a “shameful” way of escaping punishment for his misdeeds. The article said that while Zhang may have appeared to be a loyal official, in reality he lacked morality and contributed to the evil influence left by Xu and Guo.
Zhang is the most senior Communist Party official to commit suicide in an ongoing anti-corruption crackdown launched by Xi when he took office five years ago. In that time, some 1.34 million officials have reportedly been punished for graft, including both “tigers” and “flies.”
At the beginning of the campaign, an “official suicide wave” swept across the country with 24 senior officials committing suicide in an 18-month period. That wave appears to have lessened somewhat in the last few years, possibly thanks in part to suicide-proof holding cells.