The chairman of China Railway Construction, the second largest contractor in the world, has died suddenly according to a filing from the company to the Hong Kong stock exchange.
Chen Fenjian, who took the role two years ago, died on Sunday. The company did not give a cause of death, but some mainland news sites have said he took his own life.
Beijing-based business magazine Caixin, citing banking executives who do business with China Railway, reported that he took his own life by jumping from a building, although there is no official confirmation of this.
The Paper, a news app owned by the Shanghai government, also reported that Chen died after falling from a building.
The South China Morning Post notes that the death of the 58-year-old came during an official investigation of assets owned by China Railway.
The inspection is close to being complete, according to Yicai, a Shanghai newspaper.
Before taking the helm of China Railways Construction in June 2018, Chen was president of China Communications Construction Company for two years, and had also been chairman of China Harbour Engineering.
He received MBAs from Beijing University and Guanghua School of Management, as well as degrees from Changsha University of Science & Technology and Changsha Communications University.
Shares in China Railway fell by more than 4% on the Shanghai and Hong Kong exchanges after the news broke.
In 2014, Bai Zhongren, the president of China Railway Group, fell to his death in 2014. It was officially described as an accident, however Shanghai-based China Business News reported at the time that he had been suffering from depression.
The rapid development of China’s high-speed rail network, which now accounts for about two-thirds of all high-speed rail track in the world, has been accompanied by a number of corruption cases.
China’s courts are about to hand down verdicts in the cases of Zhang Shuguang, a former deputy chief engineer of the former Ministry and of Railways, and Ding Shumiao, a businesswoman with close tie with disgraced former railway minister Liu Zhijun.
Zhang was charged in September in 2013 for taking in $6.8m in bribes, and Ding for bribery linked to rail projects worth more than $26.7bn.
In July 2013, Liu Zhijun, China’s former railway minister, was given a "death sentence with reprieve" – in effect, life imprisonment – for abuse of power and taking bribes.
Last week it was reported that China Railway Group plans to increase the country’s high-speed rail network from 36,000km to 70,000km over the next 15 years, and its total length of track from 141,400km to 200,000km.
Image: Chen Fenjian (left) with Vietnamese prime minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc (China Railway Construction)