China official hangs himself after being sacked in graft probe

BEIJING - An official in eastern China hanged himself on Thursday after being sacked following a corruption probe into his presence at an extravagant banquet, state media said on Thursday, offering a rare explanation following a spate of suicides by bureaucrats.

Lou Xuequan, 50, had been Communist Party chief of a district in Nanjing city, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported, citing a government statement.

He was fired in June after provincial anti-graft investigators found he had accepted an invitation to an expensive dinner while visiting an industrial park, Xinhua added.

"The authorities made an example of Lou's dismissal to warn officials not to break the frugality rules set by the central leadership," the report said.

Such dinners are frequently associated in China with shady deals and the high living some officials enjoy despite only modest formal incomes, and have been a particular focus of the party's anti-corruption drive.

The party has been eager to project a frugal image since Xi Jinping became president last year, renewing efforts to stamp out corruption and win back public confidence after an endless series of scandals involving officials.

State media have reported on a series of officials and executives who have killed themselves in recent months, apparently after falling victim to corruption probes.

But there have been almost no cases where the government has provided a formal explanation for the suicides.