China editor's suicide sparks web debate

By Yuwen Wu
BBC Chinese

File photo: Newspaper stand in Beijing
Image caption,
People's Daily newspaper is the mouthpiece of the ruling Communist Party

The suicide of a senior editor working for China's Communist Party newspaper has sparked strong reaction from Chinese cultural and media circles and on the internet.

Xu Huaiqian, 44, was editor-in-chief for the Dadi (Earth) supplement of the People's Daily.

According to its official microblog, he jumped to his death on 22 August.

The official People's Daily microblog said he had taken time off because of depression and had sought medical help.

Xu Huaiqian was born in 1968 and graduated from the prestigious Peking University in 1989.

After a year of work experience in a steel plant, he started working for People's Daily, where he stayed until his death.

'Can't leave system'

Zhu Tieszhi, deputy chief editor of Seeking Truth journal, said he could not believe that Mr Xu had chosen this route.

Many people praised his excellent writing, and quotes from his interviews and publications have become instant hits.

In an interview he gave before his death, Xu Huaiqian was quoted as saying: "My pain is I dare to think, but I don't dare to speak out; if I dare to speak out, I don't dare to write it down, and if I dare to write it down, there is no place to publish.

"I admire those freelance writers, but I can't leave the system because if I do that my family will suffer."

In an article entitled "Let Death Be the Witness", he also wrote: "Death is a heavy word, but in China, in many cases, without deaths society will not sit up and pay attention, and problems won't be resolved."

These quotes were widely circulated on the internet and resonated with netizens who expressed shock and anger as they asked why a talented journalist ended up taking his own life.

'Unpublished script'

A reader posted in Tencent Weibo (one of China's Twitter equivalents): "I am only starting my career as a journalist and I have encountered such difficulties in my work already, and I feel that I can't fight them."

A reader asked on Sina Weibo: "Did Xu Huaiqian die to serve as a witness? Was it personal depression or the depression of an era? What kind of country is this?"

Another netizen commented that Mr Xu experienced the 1989 student movement as a young man but he had to live in lies, which caused his illness.

Some netizens mentioned the fact Mr Xu's suicide happened just days after the Burmese government said it was lifting its censorship, and lamented the sad state of affairs for Chinese intellectuals and journalists.

An eulogy posted on QQ Weibo by Gao Shixian summed up like this:

"People are the editors of a country; People only have their lives to publish; Their life is their article, and their death is the payment; Your sad end to life is like an unpublished script."

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