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The downside of corruption purges

BEIJING (AsiaNews): They drown themselves in rivers; drink poison; jump from bridges or the upper floors of their offices.

A rising number of worried bureaucrats from the Chinese Communist Party are choosing to take their own lives rather than face a corruption investigation.

This has proved to be an unwanted by-product of the anti-corruption campaign launched by the current president, Xi Jinping.

Since 2012, when Xi became the secretary general of the party and later president, he declared war on the rampant corruption which spreads its tentacles across all levels of government, putting tens of thousands of bureaucrats under investigation and handing out lengthy prison sentences.

In the past four years, the number of government officials listed as having died under abnormal circumstances rose to 120, almost double the 68 recorded between 2003 and 2012 under Xi’s predecessor, Hu Jintao.

On the surface, suicides of people either under investigation or about to be investigated are an attempt to escape the humiliation of interrogation and public confession. But it is also a way out for their families.

If a suspect dies mid-investigation, the case is closed and families get to keep any ill-gotten wealth.

News of suicide among government officials does not evoke public sympathy, as most people think all bureaucrats are corrupt.

However, one downside of the anti-corruption campaign is the fear it engenders, as the very thought of an investigation leaves many officials reluctant to make any decisions or to leave a government job for the private sector, which has generated a paralysis in permit issuance and new project launches.

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