Shenzhen landslide: Official takes own life

Excavators are seen working at the site of the Shenzhen landslide on Dec 28, 2015.
Excavators are seen working at the site of the Shenzhen landslide on Dec 28, 2015.PHOTO: AFP

He reportedly approved landfill project linked to disaster; 12 people said to be held by police

BEIJING • The head of an urban enforcement agency in the Chinese district where a huge landslide left scores of people missing has killed himself, while police have reportedly detained 12 people connected to the disaster, according to China's Xinhua news agency.

Mr Xu Yuan'an, head of the City Urban Administrative and Law Enforcement Bureau for Shenzhen's Guangming New District, jumped to his death late on Sunday, according to a post on an official police social media account yesterday.

After an investigation, police determined that Mr Xu's death was a suicide, the post said.

Seven deaths have been confirmed from the Shenzhen landslide, which struck the southern boom town bordering Hong Kong on Dec 20.

But 75 people are unaccounted for after more than 30 buildings were buried.

The disaster was caused by the improper storage of waste from construction sites, according to the official newspaper of the Ministry of Land and Resources.

Soil was illegally piled 100m high at an old quarry site and it turned to mud during rain, according to the state-run Global Times.

It was the latest in a series of fatal man-made accidents in the world's most populous country, coming just months after giant chemical blasts in the industrial city of Tianjin killed almost 200 people.

An official at the Tianjin transport commission also jumped to his death two weeks after the accident.

Earlier on Sunday, the owner of a gypsum mine in eastern China killed himself after a cave-in claimed one life and left 17 trapped, state media reported.

Urban management officials, known as chengguan in Chinese, enforce civil ordinances such as rules against street vendors or some types of pets.

But in recent years, they have gained particular notoriety for abusing their power while enforcing city laws, including the beating to death of a watermelon vendor in 2013.

Mr Xu was among the officials who approved the landfill project, according to a report by the Shenzhen Special District newspaper that was later deleted.

Cynical Internet users raised the spectre of corruption as having played a role.

"There goes all the evidence," one commentator wrote. "Now, we'll never know what really happened."

Another sarcastically lamented a practice where graft investigations cease if the suspect commits suicide, enabling his family members to retain their assets.

"Make sure not to bother his wife and child!" added a different poster.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 29, 2015, with the headline 'Shenzhen landslide: Official takes own life'. Print Edition | Subscribe