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China: Suicide Civil Servants in Depression or ‘Being Depressed'?

It seems that more and more Chinese people are suffering from various kinds of psychological illnesses according to the Chinese authorities’ investigations. It is well-known that ordinary people who petition against injustice and corruption in the country have been diagnosed as having mental illnesses such as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Recently, a similar diagnosis, this time depression, has been given to civil servants and government officials who have committed suicide.

In most of the suicide cases, the conclusion of depression is drawn quickly within a day or two without much explanation. Being skeptical of the police investigation, Chinese netizens use a passive voice, “being depressed”, to highlight the suspected covering up of corruption involved.

A recent “being depressed” case is the suicide of the deputy police officer of the criminal investigation team in Zhejiang on November 12, 2011. In less than three days, at 14:55 pm on November 15, the Chinese Police Web posted an excerpt [zh] of an investigation report at its Weibo account:

中国警察网:【浙江一刑侦副大队长跳楼身亡 患抑郁症是工作狂】警方透露,11月12日上午11时30分许,浙江省嵊州市公安局指挥中心接到群众报警称,嵊州市万都豪庭小高楼有人跳楼。随后,跳楼者被送到医院,抢救无效死亡。这个跳楼者就是嵊州市公安局刑侦大队副大队长徐栋。http://t.cn/S2zNMV

Chinese Police Web: [Deputy police officer of the criminal unit in Zhejiang who committed suicide by throwing himself from a building was a workaholic and suffered from depression] The police department revealed that at 11:30 am on 12 November, 2011, Zhejiang Shengzhou city police received a report that someone has thrown himself out of a building in a housing campus. He was sent to the hospital and died. The identity of this person is deputy police officer of the criminal unit in Shengzhou city, Xu Dong. http://t.cn/S2zNMV

Below is the discussion following the news thread:

唐僧包二奶00:良心没有泯灭的办案警察,难免有点抑郁症的。

唐僧包二奶00:Those police officers who still have some conscience would tend to suffer from depression.

王惜梧:在中国做警察真痛苦!!坏人不能尽抓,好人难免“抓错”,良心存久了不肯丢不小心就抑郁了!这位不知道是真抑郁还是假抑郁哦!

王惜梧:It is very painful to be a police officer in China!! It is inevitable that they will miss the bad guys and “mistakenly” catch the good guys. If you don't throw away your conscience, depression will become inevitable. Well you never know if this particular case is real or fake depression though.

飞天媚娘:跳楼的都是抑郁症,犯事的全为临时工。

飞天媚娘:All those who have thrown themselves from high rises are depressed, all those who made mistakes in their workplace are temporary workers.

Another case happened on November 10 at 7 pm; the Deputy Director of County Level Business Bureau under the Ministry of Agriculture Lu Yongjun threw himself out of the office window. At 10 am on the next morning, an internal meeting within the Ministry of Agriculture concluded that Lu suffered from depression and the Ministry's leaders demanded that there should be no further discussion about the case.

Lu's colleagues found the case suspicious as he was already 57 and about to retire soon. His body was cremated on November 14. Under the news headline in Sina Weibo [zh], many netizens questioned the investigation:

好咪咪:好像所有死去的这类官员都得了抑郁症,都是自杀。怎么这么巧啊,象约好了似的。

好咪咪:How come officials with similar backgrounds were all suffering from depression and committed suicide. Such a coincidence, as if they had made an appointment [for committing suicide together].

MOMAX:牺牲他一个,保住一窝人!不死也要死,死了就能保护很多人,就能让家人日子好过,否则铁定弄死他!还要家破人亡

MOMAX:Sacrifice one and save a whole team. When one died, many would be saved and his family would be taken care of. Or else, someone would make sure he died and his family would suffer.

游虾甲V5:国家机密不方便透露。

游虾甲V5:Can't reveal national secret.

央企鞍钢总医院张国贤:天朝官员爱跳楼,爱抑郁,爱不舒服死。草民更爱自焚,上吊和躲猫猫!有能耐别急着抢尸火化!

央企鞍钢总医院张国贤: Officials of the heavenly kingdom like to throw themselves from buildings, enjoy depression and painful suicide. People from the grassroots enjoy self-immolation, hanging and running into walls. The authority is busy with robbing the corpses and cremating them.

饶春亮:完了,人一死,账都不好意思查了。。。

饶春亮:case closed with one's death. It is disrespectful for people to check a dead person's account…

People's skepticism towards the suicide investigations of government officials and civil servants has been mounting since the suspicious death of an anti-corruption officer Xie Yexin in Hebei province back in August 2011. According to the autopsy report, Xie was stabbed 11 times in the chest, neck, abdomen and both wrists, and died from the rupture of a major vein near the heart. The police concluded that the case was a suicide but Xie's family did not accept the investigation. More from WSJ.

Suicide is preventable and anyone experiencing suicidal feelings should seek help. Suicide.org and Befrienders Worldwide offer confidential support for the suicidal and those in emotional crisis.

4 comments

  • Great article, though a little over-focused on the depression angle.

    China has 10,000,000 civil servants and if we simply apply the US suicide rate we get 500,000 civil service suicides every year.

    One of the reasons for civil servants’ suicides not mentioned in the article is their very real despair at being constantly scrutinized and examined and suspected of corruption! Many sensitive souls, who are quite honest and diligent, find the public attitudes towards them intolerable, sink into depression, and commit suicide.

    While the publicizing and punishing of real corruption is growing, thanks to the Internet, it is also having unintended consequences. Before the revolution, civil servants status was high and virtually unassailable. Not any more.

    It is clear, incidentally, that China’s civil servants are mostly honest and competent. Look at china’s record over the past 30 years compared, say, to Italy’s.

    Results, outcomes are the best measure of corruption. China’s government enjoys the highest trust and approval ratings of any administration on earth.

  • Unfortunately, the suicide rate of civil servants in China remains a secret and it is very difficult to draw any conclusion about the reasons for their desperate move.

  • […] government officials who have ended their lives have done so because of work pressure or depression. However, the spike in suicides seems correlated with the Chinese government's ongoing […]

  • […] 政府系メディアの報道では、官僚が自ら命を絶つ原因は仕事のプレッシャーやうつだという。しかし自殺の急増は、中国政府が進めている反汚職運動と関係があるように見える。つまり、追及を終わらせるために自殺するのだと、多くの国民が信じるように仕向けているのだ。世間も同情しているわけではなく、彼らの死が究極の汚職隠ぺいと見られることも少なくない。 […]

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