A sad event occurred two weeks ago, and I thought I ought to share it here because it touched a lot of people in this region. I’ve taken my information from that which was published in the Tours, toute ma ville magazine for the week 15-21 April.
Born in Tours in 1947, Jean Germain was once a young man who wanted to be a navy officer but had eyesight difficulties which meant he had to choose a different career. He enrolled in the Law and Economics faculties at the University of Tours, and became involved politically with the social democrats and in 1973, joining the ‘Parti Socialiste’ as its regional coordinator. A few years later, he obtained his doctorate in public law.
This put him on the path to become involved politically, directing a portfolio for André Laignel, as well as to be involved academically, taking the post of vice-president of the university. Five years later, he was upgraded to President of the University, and was recognised for his work to improve access to higher education for all students, as well as increasing the university’s international partnerships and exchange programs.
In 1995, he ran against Jean Royer and Michel Trochu in the municipal elections. The count was close- Jean Germain received just enough votes to be elected as Mayor. During his time as mayor, he encouraged an expansion of the city with the new suburb of Deux-Lions and developments along la rue National. From 1998-2011, he held the position of vice-president of the Centre region, and was once again re-elected as mayor in 2001. In 2011, he became a member of the French Senate.
The Chinese Wedding Business
In 2007, he met Lise Han, director of a company organising import-exports of Chinese products. The next year, she was given the position of Chinese Relations Advisor for the city council, with a monthly wage of 3500 euro (according to my magazine source). Soon after, Chinese couples were coming regularly to Tours to get married “the French way”. Money was transferred from the city council to the import-export company, now directed by the husband of Lise Han.
In 2011, photocopies of the bills owed by the import-export company were handed to the local media. From the information supplied, it seemed the bills had been payed by the city council. An investigation was begun.
A few months later, Lise Han was sacked and given a new position with the Office of Tourism, which Jean Germain presided over.
In 2013, Lise Han was brought before the court, along with members of the city council and the manager of the Office of Tourism. In October, Jean Germain was placed under scrutiny. His plea for the investigation of his involvement with fraud to be cancelled was rejected, and the trial process was begun.
On Tuesday the 7th of April, the court process into L’affaire des mariages chinois began at 9:30am. Jean Germain was nowhere to be found. A letter was retrieved from his car: “…I can’t bear this injustice and dishonor…”. Two hours later, it was discovered that he had committed suicide.
That same day, I had had a class with a teacher who was concerned to hear that Jean Germain was missing in action. “I hope they find him safe”, she told us, “I haven’t been following this whole Chinese marriages thing, but he did a lot for the university, and for Tours”. On the radio, the sentiment was similar.
The Saturday after his death, there was a public gathering in his honour. I went along and was touched by the strong sense of community. Families, singles and couples, people on bikes, people with dogs, people with suits. People who’d brung flowers with them, people who took a red rose home from the buckets of long stem roses provided to serve as a connection to – or a memento of- this sad occasion.
This event and the waves of feeling it sent through the community made me reflect on life and choices we make. Death is always difficult to contend with, but when a person suicides, it is very hard for those left living- the grief is complicated by the fact that that person chose to leave.
In this case, I wonder about how Jean Germain’s actual level of involvement in the money shuffling process influenced his actions- was he upset at injustice or unable to cope with dishonor he brought upon himself? I also wonder about the pressure on public figures to behave. It’s important that those with roles of power use this power for good- but at the same time, we should understand that all people are human, and we all have moments of weakness where we make bad or hurtful decisions.
If you are considering suicide, or if you feel strongly about what you’ve read here, please go and talk to someone about it. You can visit this forum or call a number from this website (limited to certain countries only) if you don’t feel that you can have a conversation with a friend or family member.