Two college students, who met on the Tencent QQ instant messenger platform, committed suicide together in a hotel in Nanjing, East China's Jiangsu Province recently. After the incident, Nanjing-based Modern Express reporters discovered several other QQ groups through which strangers meet and plan their deaths together.
When handling the case, local police suggested raising society's awareness of mental health among young people, and promised to investigate those QQ groups that helped them along the road to death.
The two college students, both born after 1995, were found sitting in the locked bathroom of a hotel room by staff who immediately called paramedics and the police on October 16.
Paramedics announced that the two were dead at the scene. Police found that they had sealed the bathroom's air vents with tape, and found a lit charcoal brazier and some charcoal in the room. One man had left a suicide note, and the other had cuts on his wrist.
The investigation showed that the two, Gao Sheng (pseudonym) and Li Ping (pseudonym), were college students in East China's Anhui Province. "Their universities are in two different cities, and their lives were not intertwined," a police officer said.
The suicide note left by Gao showed that he had planned the suicide for some time, and he prepared the charcoal, tapes and beer they used.
Through Li's cellphone, police found that the two contacted each other in a suicide-themed QQ group. "Li had communicated with other members in the group on the topic of suicide," the officer said.
Police also found some empty alcohol bottles on the scene including Four Loko, a sickly-sweet artificially flavored maltliquor-based beverage with an alcohol content of more than 10 percent.
Police said that it's easy for young people to go to extremes when pressure and other psychological problems are not treated properly, and discussions on the QQ group also played a part in their death.
Get more charcoal
Such suicide pacts are not rare, with the media revealing many cases as early as 2013. Keywords such as "suicide" are now blocked when searching on QQ, the Modern Express reported.
But Tencent's blocking scheme has not worked well as the Modern Express reporter was still able to find many QQ groups focusing on suicide.
The reporter joined several such groups. A member of one group told the reporter that the group is for "dying together." When someone says they will commit suicide soon, other members often come up with detailed plans or make snarky comments.
In one QQ group, a member offered a suicide invitation, which was soon accepted by another group member. Other members then asked the inviter what kind of suicide tools he has prepared.
After learning that the inviter had acquired 2.5 kilograms of charcoal, someone said it was not enough and suggested they get more.
"Someone who plans to kill himself is depressed when they join the group. Their thoughts of suicide are hardened after being incited by those sarcastic comments," the police officer said.
Though many people agree suicide-themed QQ groups cause young people move faster toward death, do they need to face legal liability?
Chen Gong, a lawyer at the Jiangsu Jinlong Law Firm, said that other netizens' behavior could be deemed as solicitation. Normally, instigating others to commit suicide is not considered illegal as Chinese law does not list suicide as a crime. But instigating those with a limited capacities for self-responsibility, such as juveniles and mentally disabled people to commit suicide could be considered homicide.
Netizens from the QQ groups encourage those who plan to commit suicide, meaning that they want people to die, said Wang Bin, a lawyer from Jiangsu Nuofa Law Firm.
Zhang Shurao, a lawyer from Jiangsu Jinglande Law Firm, further pointed out that those who offer means, times or venues for suicide which leads to the death of others should also be held accountable for homicide.
As for the frequent suicide incidents involving young people, police have appealed to the whole society to pay more attention to their psychological condition. People around them should keep alert to discover precursors before young people go to extremes, and young people should turn to close friends or psychologists when suffering from depression or anxiety.
Meanwhile, police said they will conduct more campaigns to clear the suicide-themed QQ groups online.
Modern Express - Global Times