A top Chinese general hanged himself after coming under investigation for corruption charges, China’s state-run news agency Xinhua reported Tuesday.
General Zhang Yang, the former head of the Chinese military’s political work department, was found dead at his home on November 23, the news agency said.
Military investigators had launched an investigation into Zhang’s ties to two former Central Military Commission vice chairmen – Guo Boxiong and Xu Caihou – who fell prey to President Xi Jinping’s massive anti-corruption campaign.
Xinhua said investigators found Zhang had seriously violated party discipline and broke the law by allegedly giving and accepting bribes as well as possessing a huge amount of money, the sources of which he could not account for.
He was allowed to stay at home during the early stages of the investigation, the report said.
Zhang was a member of the Central Military Commission, which runs the two-million strong People’s Liberation Army.
More than 1.4 million people have been punished under Xi’s anti-corruption campaign since 2012, according to state media, including around 300 senior officials.
In a scathing commentary published by the People’s Liberation Army Daily Tuesday, the paper said he “wanted to evade punishment by party discipline and state law by committing suicide – such behavior was extremely despicable.”
Party officials have warned for years of corrupt officials “escaping” justice through suicide. Anti-grawft scholar Lin Zhe wrote in the state-run China Daily in 2014 that many top officials kill themselves to end the investigation before it potentially implicates family members or stashed-away wealth.
“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,” Lin wrote. “Considering the astonishing sums of money an official can obtain through corruption, that’s a good deal for them and their families.”
While Xi has been praised for going after “tigers” as wells as “flies” – high and low-ranking officials – some critics have accused him of using the campaign to shore up his absolute control over the Communist Party and purge his opponents.
Predictions the campaign may let up once Xi felt more secure in the top job don’t seem to be playing out. Even after the 19th Party Congress, during which Xi was elevated to a level no Chinese leader has held since Mao Zedong, officials have called for a ramping up of anti-graft activities.
Last week the campaign added its latest “tiger”: Lu Wei, China’s former internet czar and mastermind of the country’s sprawling online censorship system, who was placed under investigation for “suspected serious violations of discipline.”