The Heartbreaking Saga of Zhu Ling

The recent death of a graduate student at China’s prestigious Fudan University, allegedly poisoned by a jealous roommate, evoked memories of the 1995 Zhu Ling case, reignited online fury that the case remains unsolved, and prompted 146,779 (as of the time of this posting) people to sign a petition launched on for U.S. authorities to deport Zhu’s former roommate and poisoning suspect, who allegedly fled to the States years ago. In an incredibly informative article for the Daily Dot, Kevin Morris describes the case at length. His piece shows how the Zhu Ling story represents the Internet revolution to date, and how her case prompted an early (and ongoing) use of China’s “human flesh search engine“:

In a grainy, black-and-white video of her final performance, Zhu Ling sweeps across the stage in a black skirt and white blouse before taking a seat behind a guqin, the six-stringed Chinese zither. She’s been feeling sick recently, and you can tell she’s a little nervous. But her fingers are precise. They pluck out a cautious melody.

Zhu has no idea she’s been poisoned.

A heavy metal is coursing through her body, brutalizing her neurological system. By the time the rare element is finally diagnosed and purged, Zhu will be physically ruined, her brilliant mind permanently damaged, her mental capacities reduced to that of a 6-year-old. She will forever be trapped in 1995, believing she’s a student at China’s most prestigious technical university.

She will miss everything that happens next.

Zhu’s story has straddled and defined two ends of the Internet revolution, connecting two decades, two continents, and two generations. She was probably the first person whose life was saved thanks to crowdsourced medical advice.

Nearly two decades later, her case has become the subject of what may be the largest amateur online manhunt in history, as millions of strangers in two countries unite on message boards and social media to scour the world for the only suspect in her poisoning, a woman barely seen or heard from since 1995—her college roommate.

It all began with an SOS made of ones and zeroes.[…]


Click through to read Kevin Morris’ captivating narration of the Zhu Ling story in its entirety.

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