Chinese Liaison’s Death Shines Spotlight on Chinese Corruption Crackdown in Macau

Zheng Xiasong

A prominent figure in the Chinese Communist Party died recently from a fall. The government official, Zheng Xiaosong, fell from his apartment block. He was to be Beijing’s representative in the former Portuguese enclave of Macau.

Zheng was the director of the central government’s liaison office in Macau. He passed away after “falling from the building at his residence in Macau because he was suffering from depression.”

Officials from the State Council Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office investigated the incident on Oct. 21. The central organization department also sent officials to help in the investigation. The officials offered their condolences to Zheng’s relatives, according to an official statement.

Zheng’s death occurred on the eve of a visit to Zhuhai by Xi Jinping, the president of China. Xi was traveling to Zhuhai to open the longest sea bridge in the world. The bridge will connect Zhuhai, Macau, and Hong Kong (a former British colony) across the Pearl River estuary.

More About Zheng Xiaosong

A source with knowledge of the inner workings of Chinese politics stated Zheng hadn’t been in his position long. Zheng once served as secretary to the former foreign minister and vice premier, the late Qian Qichen. Qian was an influential diplomat in the Jiang Zemin administration.

The source also alluded that there could be a connection to Zheng’s death and Li Gang’s recent detention at the Macau liaison office. Gang was Zheng’s predecessor. The source states “just before director Zheng’s [death], his predecessor … Li Gang was disciplined by the party, although I don’t think he was subjected to a criminal prosecution.”

Other Untimely Deaths

The number of reported deaths of Chinese officials has increased since 2012. That year, Xi announced his anticorruption campaign. According to analysts, Xi’s campaign has been “highly selective,” with a focus on rival factions within the ruling party.

Beijing ordered a probe in 2015 concerning the deaths of government officials who died of “unnatural causes.” This came after there had been an increase in suicides among political figures in the Communist Party. The country also called on governmental agencies and departments to collect data about the deaths. The data included the circumstances of the suicides, the places where they occurred, and the causes of death. The reports had to confirm whether the individual committed suicide. If the report confirmed this, it must provide details about the suicide. These details must include how, where, and why it occurred. The order also requires “details of any subsequent investigation must also be given, according to directives posted in the public domain at the time.”

If the data listed any suicides, the data must also list the reason. Respondents must choose from a list of seven factors that contributed to a suicide. These factors include party discipline, stress, and depression, according to the directive. The organization department of the Communist Party issued the order. This department oversees recruitment and personnel.

Working for a “United Front”

Long Zhenyang was a former editor of a Hong Kong newspaper. He left the city to seek asylum in the United States because of political persecution. The Chinese Communist Party supported the newspaper he worked for. Long said people expect the Macau liaison office director to aid in the “united front” work. Its purpose is to boost influence and support for Beijing overseas.

Long told RFA “the office … is responsible for carrying out united front work through various organizations that it doesn’t directly control.” Long also stated, “that includes overseas political figures, including democratic representatives.” Long stated because Macau is a gambling hub, it is an ideal place to do united front work. This also means there are several chances for corruption to occur. This is because the liaison office is also in charge of mainland Chinese-invested companies, according to Long.

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