Former legal official remembered for his devotion to Tibetan community

Every day, 81-year-old Phuntsog Tashi lights a lamp made from butter and chants Buddhist scripture.

"I pray for Su Zhibin, who was a good man, and hope the lamp will light his way to heaven," said the resident of Zhonggu village, Jiulong county, in Ganzi Tibetan autonomous prefecture, Sichuan province.

Su, former chief procurator of the county procuratorate, died of a stroke aged 50 in Chengdu, capital of Sichuan, on Sept 2. Doctors said the cerebral hemorrhage was induced by stress and overwork.

The official had spearheaded efforts to have Phuntsog's home connected to the local water supply network. Previously, Phuntsog had to carry water to his home from a faraway well in the village.

As news of Su's death spread, many of the 486 residents of Haidi village in Jiulong's Kuiduo township prepared to travel the more than 700 kilometers to attend his funeral in Chengdu, according to Pan Changming, one of the villagers.

Ganzi Tibetan autonomous prefecture is one of Sichuan's less developed areas and leading officials at different levels have the task of helping people in need. Su did many good deeds for the needy, said Gou Yadong, an information officer with the prefecture's government.

Haidi, in a mountainous region of the province, used to be almost inaccessible to the outside world, but Su managed to persuade the county's finance chiefs to allocate more than 4 million yuan ($575,000) for the construction of a new access road, Pan said.

Su was born and raised in the prefecture's Shiqu county, where the average elevation is 4,526 meters and the temperature rarely climbs much above freezing.

During his 31-year career, he worked in a number of the prefecture's procuratorates.

He started in 1985 as a bailiff in the Shiqu county procuratorate. Yet due to never having attended any institutions of higher education, he knew little about the law.

"He learned what he knew from older colleagues, and old newspapers and magazines that he collected from the procuratorate's various offices. He would read these clippings from time to time and gradually, he became an expert of sorts," said Yeshi Dorje, one of Su's colleagues at the Shiqu county procuratorate.

"Before he started working in Ganzi's Luhuo county procuratorate in the year 2000, he had handled more than 200 criminal cases in Shiqu without making any mistakes."

At the end of 2011, Su became chief procurator of the procuratorate of Jiulong county, which is mostly inhabited by Tibetans and Yi people.

"In the small county, locals like to treat each other to dinner and give each other cigarettes and liquor as gifts. But Su never banqueted at public expense. He didn't smoke or drink, and he never accepted any gifts," said Deng Mingchao, one of his younger colleagues at the Jiulong county procuratorate.