The White House and other US branches of government have a habit of issuing inconvenient news releases on Friday evening so that they get as little public attention as possible. In China, that technique tends to be taken one step further - the news is issued just before midnight, when everyone is either in bed, or out enjoying themselves.
By now, everyone appears to agree that Song Pingshun, the chairman of the Tianjin Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Conference, was being investigated for corruption and committed suicide on Tuesday. Or Wednesday. Or Monday.
Not everyone agrees on exactly how he did it.
Xinhua: (English, received on our news feed at just after half past eleven on Friday night)
I cannot find it online, so here is the full text:
BEIJING, June 8 (Xinhua) — Song Pingshun, chairman of the Tianjin Municipal Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference in the northern port city of Tianjin, was found dead on Monday.
A police investigation showed that Song had committed suicide.
Relevant departments said that they had received reports accusing Song of corruption and an investigation is underway.
I have found no report.
Reuters: (via Khaleej Times - this is the version we received on our feed at work)
‘He was found dead in bed from an overdose of sleeping pills … He had economic problems and killed himself,’ the official told Reuters by telephone.
Song, chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) in the northern port city of Tianjin, was found dead on Wednesday after jumping from Tianjin’s CPPCC building, Hong Kong’s Chinese-language Ming Pao newspaper said.
Last night, Reuters quoted an unnamed Tianjin official as saying that Song Pingshun died [missing from my translation: 於脇上 … help, anyone?] from an overdose of sleeping pills and had killed himself because of economic-related problems. Other information says Song Pingshun jumped out of an office window.
A Tianjin police source who attended the scene said Song, who was also director of the municipal party politics and law committee, killed himself by sealing his mouth with tape, putting on a mask and covering his head with a plastic bag.
“Song was found dead and his face had turned purple, leaving no hope for a recovery,” the source said. “It’s rare to see a person kill himself in such an extreme way. It proved he was determined to die to defend the dignity of himself and people close to him.”
That last one is a bit startling. Who on Earth would want to do that? Conspiracy theorists might say that sounds like a rather unpleasant and unlikely way to choose to die. They might wonder if certain people thought, rightly or wrongly, that Song was about to take advantage of this month’s grace period for party officials to declare their corruption before severe punishments are handed out. In this conspiracy theory, those certain people would have taken preemptive action to prevent Song confessing and implicating them.
But a quick Google search shows that, strange as it may seem, plastic bags and masks are indeed a recognized way to commit suicide. That doesn’t mean the SCMP’s source is right… or that the hypothetical conspiracy theorist is wrong.
The SCMP article tells us:
He was the Tianjin Public Security Bureau director for 15 years, the Politics and Law Committee director for 19 years and Tianjin deputy party secretary and deputy mayor before becoming CPPCC chairman last year.
Returning to the Mingpao article,
On the evening of the 4th of this month, investigation officials from the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection spoke with Song for two hours and hoped that he would “speak clearly”. Unexpectedly, not long after they had left, Song was found dead in the [Tianjin] CPPCC office.
Sohu is running a bare-bones Takungpao story.
Netease was doing the same, but has removed it. Zaobao.com is currently running the Mingpao article. Nothing else comes up on a Baidu news search.
We’ll never know for certain the full truth of Song Pingshun’s death. I’m sure few would disagree that corruption must be dealt with. But death is so final. Whatever Song’s life may have been like, whatever he may have done, did it really have to end this way?