Zhu Ling, the victim of a thallium poisoning case 19 years ago, has once again surfaced in online discussion after a postgraduate student was poisoned and died at Shanghai's Fudan University.
Zhu was a student at Tsinghua University, but became permanently disabled after the poisoning. Her former roommate Sun Wei was among the suspects at the time, though the case has remained unsolved. Sun later changed her name and migrated to the US.
There are many voices calling for the case to be reopened. A petition on the White House website calling for Sun's deportation already has hundreds of thousands of signatures.
Because Sun is the granddaughter of a senior government official, many citizens speculated that Sun's family used connections to settle this case 19 years ago.
Essentially, public opinion has become fixated on an unsolved case which happened 19 years ago, and officials are hesitating over whether they should respond.
The public has quickly jumped to assume the guilt of both Sun and related officials. In all likelihood, if there had been solid evidence the perpetrator would not have gone unpunished. Sun's family background was not distinguished enough to prevent security organs from investigating the situation at a top university in China.
If it was easy to reinvestigate this case, it could be very difficult for those people to prevent the public from knowing the truth. What kind of "interconnected interests" could possibly make people take such dangerous risks?
We want to use these words to stress that there are many uncertainties in Zhu Ling's case. The public should not be guided by the "presumption of guilt" online.
People tend to become emotional online over issues like this due to a lack of credibility among officials. Officials find it tough to deal with these kinds of questions online. Often, they stay silent because they don't know how to respond.
Obviously, it is impossible for officials to respond to every question, but we believe that officials should come forward to respond to Zhu's case and satisfy the public via information disclosure.
As these kinds of responses become more common, public understanding will also increase.
The crux of the problem in Zhu's case lies in the unsuccessful communication between officials and the people involved.
There are always some people who search for opportunities to demonstrate the "injustice" in the judicial system of China. This means that it is even more important to handle cases of public concern very carefully.
As for the more than 100 thousands of signatures on the White House Website, the White House cannot be the foreign "petition office" of China. However, embarrassments in the Internet age need not be covered up. We have our problems, and we will do our best to solve them.
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