04/21/2009, 00.00
CHINA
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Sichuan earthquake: another suicide, risk is high that many will imitate him

A political official from Beichuan has killed himself, devastated over the death of his 8-year-old son and overwhelmed by his rebuilding responsibilities. Experts: many could commit suicide at the anniversary.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Feng Xiang, Communist Party director in the county of Beichuan, hung himself yesterday out of grief for the death of his 8-year-old son in the disastrous earthquake last May 12, which devastated Sichuan with more than 88,000 deaths. Experts warn that there is an elevated risk of suicides with the approach of the first anniversary of the quake.

Feng, 33, was found dead alone at his home. His son was one of the thousands of students who died in the collapse of the schools. His body was never recovered. Beichuan was one of the areas hardest hit by the earthquake. Many schools went down like "tofu puddings," and parents accuse the authorities of building them poorly, embezzling the funds, but the government has never revealed the results of the promised investigations (in the photo: grieving parents).

After the death of his son, Feng distinguished himself in his public activity, and was quickly appointed deputy head of the Department of Propaganda in the county. He never got over the loss of his son. A few hours before his suicide, he wrote on a website: "if I should die one day, my son, it would be the happiest thing . . . I would be with you forever . . . after losing you, papa has no future, he has no hope, nothing to look forward to." He wrote to his family and friends that he was very depressed, and asked them to understand his decision.

Experts warn that there is a high risk of more suicides with the approach of the May 12 anniversary, especially among the authorities responsible for reconstruction, who are subjected to constant pressure. The pressure is even greater on those responsible for the building of schools.

This is the second suicide among high officials, after the October suicide of Dong Yufei, director of the disaster relief office in Beichuan, who lost a number of relatives in the earthquake, including his 12-year-old son.

In an interview in 2008, Feng said that "Dong's suicide was inevitable. Many officials in Beichuan want to kill themselves. One day, I could also take my own life . . . Take it easy, I won't do it. I will live my life, and I will see the future of Beichuan."

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