BEIJING (AFP) - The deputy editor of the Chinese Communist party's top theoretical journal has committed suicide, reports said, sending speculation swirling over political infighting, freedom of thought and corruption.
Zhu Tiezhi, 56, a well-known essayist on party theories and the deputy editor-in-chief of Qiushi - "Seeking Truth" - hanged himself in the magazine's garage, Chinese media said.
Citing an unnamed friend, Chinese media group Caixin said he had been depressed by ideological disputes in recent years between reformists and increasingly vocal conservative academics.
If the ruling party cannot solve real problems, "ideological debates would become empty talk to undermine the mutual trust between the party, the government it leads and the people", it quoted one of Zhu's articles as reading.
Under President Xi Jinping, authorities have tightened the space for debate both within the party and in wider society.
Zhu believed a scholar must preserve his integrity, independent way of thinking and unique views, the report cited the friend saying.
But "that concern does not sit well with the party's call for all members and cadres to unite behind the party lines", Caixin said.
People.cn, a website run by the Communist Party's mouthpiece the People's Daily, carried a brief report Sunday on Zhu's death, without elaborating on the cause.
The report was widely picked up by other Chinese media, but most had been taken down by Tuesday.
Overseas Chinese media reports speculated that Zhu killed himself partly due to links with Ling Jihua, a fallen former aide to Xi's presidential predecessor Hu Jintao.
Ling faces charges of accepting bribes and illegally obtaining state secrets.
Qiushi published a 4,000-word article by Ling in December 2014 - around two weeks ahead of his fall - that quoted Xi at least 16 times in a last-ditch attempt to showcase loyalty and beg for mercy, the reports said.
Ling may have influenced Zhu to expedite the publication by the journal, which is normally extremely selective, they said.
The Party's anti-corruption watchdog, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, in October blasted Qiushi for "slack political censoring on the publication of some articles" and improperly manipulating the editing process to publish writings by friends.