A 43-year-old apparatchik, Wang Wei wasn't the type to make headlines. Just a few months ago, he'd become the city of Jilin's deputy mayor responsible for, among other things, industrial management and work safety. But the day after a Nov. 13 benzene-plant explosion in the city killed five people and wounded dozens, Wang was thrust into the spotlight. The blast "did not produce large-scale pollution," he reassured a packed press conference. "Water [quality] has not changed." In fact, nearly 100 tons of carcinogenic chemicals had been dumped into the Songhua River, a source of drinking water for nearly 4 million downstream residents in Harbin. There, authorities had to shut city water taps for days to avoid a catastrophe. By late November, it was clear regional officials had spent the first ten days after the blast playing down the toxic threat. To get to the bottom of the cover-up, Beijing dispatched investigators to Jilin. Just before they arrived last Tuesday, Wang Wei was found dead at his home. Local sources said he'd committed suicide.