Former Editor-in-Chief of China's People's Daily Newspaper Falls to Death

2018-11-07
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A newsstand vendor stands behind Chinese newspapers for sale in Beijing, Dec. 6, 2016.
A newsstand vendor stands behind Chinese newspapers for sale in Beijing, Dec. 6, 2016.
AFP

A former editor-in-chief of ruling Chinese Communist Party newspaper the People’s Daily has died in an apparent suicide after falling 19 floors from the paper's headquarters.

Hu Xin, 66, died on Tuesday after being pronounced dead at the scene of the fall, which came after reports that she had been suffering from insomnia and depression.

A source inside state broadcaster CCTV said Hu had been suffering from depression for at least a decade, and had retired a few years ago.

Journalists were unable to contact her family, and government censors had banned photographs taken at the scene of Hu's death, the source said.

A journalist surnamed Zheng with a state media organization told RFA that Hu was a well-known figure in the party's tightly controlled official media and propaganda system, where many people suffer mental strain from having to repeat the party line rather than reporting on the issues of the day.

"I think she was pretty well-known; maybe this had something to do with her work, or maybe with her family," Zheng said. "It has to be one of the two, right?"

"Depression is very common in the media, because the amount of fakery we have to write gets to us psychologically," she said. "Maybe she felt that she was still a person of conscience. Who knows? It's complicated."

"She's not the only servant of the state to suffer from depression, either," Zheng said.

Last month, Zheng Xiaosong, the Communist Party official in charge of Beijing's representative office in the former Portuguese enclave of Macau died after a fall from his apartment block, "because he was suffering from depression."

Zheng's death came on the eve of a reported visit to neighboring Zhuhai by China's president, Xi Jinping, to open the world's longest sea-bridge connecting Zhuhai, Macau, and the former British colony of Hong Kong across the Pearl River estuary.

'A divided sense of self'

A Guizhou-based journalist surnamed Zhou said many others in China's tightly controlled media doubt the reports of Hu's "depression."

"It's more likely to be part of a divided sense of self, and they are just blaming it on depression," Zhou said. "These propaganda types are so rigid in their thinking, but once they start letting it out, there's no holding them."

Hu held a master's degree from Peking University’s Department of Philosophy, and first began working for the People’s Daily in 1990 at the paper's "theory department."

She had served as editor-in-chief of the paper and of its sister publication Frontline News, and won several Chinese press awards, as well as having articles reprinted in The New York Times.

President Xi Jinping, who was elected to an indefinite term by the country's rubber-stamp parliament last March, has said the state media are an extension of the ruling Chinese Communist Party, sharing its aims and political goals, and acting as its mouthpiece.

Reported by Wong Siu-san and Sing Man for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by Qiao Long for the Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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