A Chinese student’s fatal fall from a building on Sunday has triggered a public uproar in China, as thousands took to social media to demand a transparent investigation into the boy’s death. Chengdu police had earlier ruled the 17-year-old high school student’s death a suicide, but their refusal to show his mother surveillance footage and allow her to see his body triggered public suspicion and anger, as comments translated by CDT below illustrate. Sixth Tone’s Du Xinyu and Liu Mengqiu reported on local authorities’ handling of the case, and the reasons for the mother’s suspicions:
But Weiqi’s mother, surnamed Lu, doesn’t buy this, saying the school has been less than transparent with her since the tragedy. She wasn’t informed of her son’s death until two hours later, she said, which has left her clamoring for the real account of his last moments.
“The school’s current strategy is to shut all of us out, and not tell us what exactly happened,” Lu wrote in a post Monday morning on microblogging platform Weibo. “Our request to see the surveillance footage was rejected. When we tried to question other students about the incident, the school dismissed the entire class and warned them to keep their mouths shut.”
[…] In a separate post Monday, Lu said the police told her that her son’s body was taken directly to a funeral home instead of to the hospital, where a coroner could have given an authoritative cause of death. To her, this raised further questions about the school’s handling of the boy’s death.
South China Morning Post’s William Zheng reported further on authorities’ response to the incident:
A joint statement by the district propaganda department, the police and the education bureau said that investigators had come to the initial conclusion that “the student took his own life due to personal problems”.
Lin’s mother, surnamed Lu, had earlier queried the transparency of the initial investigation and said on social media that she had not yet been allowed to see her son’s body. She said “too many unanswered questions” remained.
[…] Lu’s comments caused uproar online as thousands voiced their anger and backed her call for greater transparency.
“There were no details, no timeline, no surveillance footage, no autopsy report, no witnesses’ accounts, yet they concluded that his death was due to ‘personal problems’?” one person posted under the initial official statement. [Source]
Protest in front of Chengdu 49 middle school, police have cleared the area. pic.twitter.com/74yAtHEGDX
— 中国傻事 (@China_Silly) May 11, 2021
What angers netizens is not only the tragic death of a teenager but also the alleged cover-up of the truth. Accusations range from the school's threatening to strip off students' qual to sit in college entrance exam if they speak out to govt's gag order on media. pic.twitter.com/bC9kRM2CRs
— lotus (@lotus_ruan) May 11, 2021
The most upvoted comments under a CCTV post on China’s latest census at 12 am & 12 pm Tuesday, respectively. At 12 am, enraged web users called for an investigation into the mysterious death of a high school student in Chengdu.12hrs later, everyone’s proud to be a🇨🇳national. pic.twitter.com/Fw7GTzJm8x
— Shen Lu (@shenlulushen) May 11, 2021
CDT Editors have compiled a selection of online comments related to the incident:
是猪头焖子吧：Do you take netizens for fools?
羊羊妹儿99：A statement at 4am? The Ministry of Education must be working even longer hours than the entertainment industry!!!
AnOutcast：In the entire statement there is only one specific time marker? What about all the other times? What time was the ambulance called? What time did the ambulance arrive? When did the doctors mark the time of death? What time were the family members notified? At no point in time, got it. Where did the incident happen? What happened? Obtain surveillance? Surveillance from where?
多香菜少葱花：Ordinary autopsy results take 20 days, but in this case the autopsy was completed after just two?
天才少年阿妖：Why did the ambulance take two hours to arrive? What right does the school have to dispose of the corpse privately?
弥望悸动：What a ridiculous, incredible announcement! Why not publish the surveillance video and explain the reason for the school’s initial response? Why were the parents turned away? Why should they be deprived of their right to see their child for the last time!
有一只小豆子：Did you think there would be fewer people on Weibo to scold you in the middle of the night?
AUDGXS：I want the eye witnesses to come out and speak, I want the on-site teachers to speak, and I want to see the complete surveillance footage. Whether it’s right or wrong, whether it’s an external cause or personal problems, we’ll know after seeing it. [Chinese]
Part of the anger online may be exacerbated by the fact that this is not the first incident in which the death of a student has been shrouded in opacity. Over the past year, there have been several similar cases of reported “camera malfunctions”:
"15-year-old girl fell to death from school dorm, surveillance footage missing. Police ruled out homicide."
"High school senior in Hebei 'jumped to death' after being denied a leave request. School: surveillance footage was unavailable"https://t.co/qpfLsOGF97
— Mengyu Dong (@dong_mengyu) May 11, 2021
These stories were all reported by Chinese press in the past year. compiled by WeChat blogger "疾痛的隐喻" https://t.co/qpfLsOGF97
— Mengyu Dong (@dong_mengyu) May 11, 2021
SupChina’s Jiayun Feng reported on the history of cover-ups in Chinese schools:
There are legitimate reasons for Chinese parents to be skeptical when it comes to their children who die at school. In some cases, the skepticism stems from the lack of transparency these families are given when working with local police departments. There’s also a culture among Chinese schools to cover up scandals to avoid accountability and protect reputations. Last year, a mother in Jiangsu Province had a similar experience to that of Lin’s family after her son jumped to his death from a building on his college campus. When confronted with questions about why it did not inform the mother until four hours after the incident and then confined her in a hotel room until the next day, the university defended its practice (in Chinese) by saying that it was preventing the devastated mother from having a mental breakdown. [Source]