China: Former General Commits Suicide Amidst Graft Probe

A former general of China’s People’s Liberation Army who was under investigation for corruption was found hanging by the neck from the ceiling in his Beijing apartment, the BBC reported on Tuesday.

800px-Soldiers of the Chinese Peoples Liberation Army - 2011Soldiers of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (Photo: Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, CC BY 2.0)Zhang Yang had been out of the public eye since August while under investigation for his alleged connection to two officials deemed corrupt, Guo Boxiong and Xu Caihou. According to the state-run Xinhua, he took his life on Thursday.

Guo and Xu were both former leaders in the Central Military Commission of which Zhang was a member. Guo received a life sentence for bribery last year, and Xu died of cancer before his corruption trial.

Zhang was thought to be an ally of President Xi Jinping, the leader behind a ruthless anti-corruption crackdown that critics believe is a tool to eliminate opposing political groups and enemies.

"Xi Jinping's decision to persecute both Xu and Guo after their retirement reflects his determination to put an end to the dominance of Jiang Zemin (his own patron) over the military,” wrote The Diplomat.

Xi has made many moves to tighten his grip on the military, including removing dozens of army commanders from power. His decisions to replace older generals with younger officers also led to the modernization of the military.

State media condemned Zhang’s death “as a ‘despicable’ act to escape punishment,” reported The New York Times. Comments on a report from Xinhua news agency labeled his suicide as “abominable.” Zhang was “a typical two-faced person,” said The People’s Liberation Army Daily, the military’s official newspaper.

On Sina Weibo, one of China’s most popular social media sites, users speculated on the fact that the government took five days to announce his death. Officials “needed to make sure all the major media had their manuscript ready in advance," one user quipped, insinuating that Zhang’s death was not by suicide.

A top official committing suicide is rare in China, according to The New York Times