A high-ranking Chinese Army General has committed suicide by taking an overdose of sleeping pills, the third military official to kill himself this month. Major General Chen Jie, 54, who had organised Hong Kong’s handover ceremony in 1997, killed himself by taking an overdose of sleeping pills, Hong-Kong based South China Morning Post reported on Friday.
He was the political commissar of a major army group under the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) Southern Theatre Command. His funeral will be held in Shenzhen on Saturday.
“Chen was a rising star. He was to receive a promotion on August 6, just a day before his death. He took a large number of sleeping pills on August 5 in the dormitory of a subordinate regiment in Shenzhen. It was a pity,” the Post quoted sources as saying.
Chen was the third senior PLA officer to have ended his life within a week since the beginning of the month, it said. The first in the trio of suicides was a publicity director of a political office of the Southern Theatre Command based in Nanjing.
Then Senior Captain Li Fuwen, director of the navy’s logistics enterprises management centre, leaped to his death from a building in the navy’s complex in Beijing on Friday last week, it said.
The suicides followed investigations launched by the military’s corruption investigator against General Tian Xiusi – the former political chief of the air force and a member of the ruling Communist Party’s elite Central Committee.
Military watchers said the series of suicides suggested President Xi Jinping’s campaign against graft within the PLA had entered a second round, the Post report said. Around 40 PLA officials including two former leading generals – Xu Caihou and Guo Boxiong who headed the PLA during the previous President Hu Jintao regime were indicted in corruption probes in the anti-graft campaign launched by Xi who succeeded Hu in 2013.
While Xu died of cancer, Guo was recently sentenced to life after pleading guilty to various allegations including taking hefty bribes for promotion of officers. However, there was no conclusive evidence showing that Chen’s suicide was related to the corruption crackdown, the Post report said. Chen joined the army at age 15 and went on to play a key role in Hong Kong’s handover from Britain to China in 1997.
He was one of the very few Chinese military personnel sent to the city weeks beforehand to help arrange the transition. “These suicides were the effect of recent intensive probes into senior officials like Tian. Many senior officials were found to have close links with property developers amid the recent crackdown of the army’s paid-for services,” Liang Guoliang, a Hong Kong-based military analyst told the Post.
In March, the Central Military Commission announced the PLA and the armed police must end their so-called paid-for services within three years. Barracks and warehouses would no longer be rented out.