Shooting threat mixes online, offline violence

Source:Global Times Published: 2016-2-17 18:53:01

Editor's Note:

A Chinese student from the University of Iowa (UI), Ni Hanxiang, was reportedly expelled and deported back to China after threatening on social media to shoot his professor if he fails his exams. "I've been working so hard this semester. If the university still fails me, I will let the professor feel the fear like Lu Gang." Ni posted on Instagram. Lu, then a UI student, killed five people and heavily wounded one in 1991 after a scholarship went to a colleague, before committing suicide. Ni's comments triggered discussion over the violence and seriousness of online language. The Global Times collected three pieces over this matter.

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Culture no excuse for menacing words

Threatening to shoot professors is illegal in both China and the US. However, Ni's father seems to have not taken his son's threatening message seriously.

While acknowledging Ni's wrongdoing, Ni's father attributed his son's comments to a lack of understanding to local laws and culture, implying that posting threatening messages online is only forbidden in the US culture. It is unreasonable for Ni's family to excuse his wrongdoings by blaming cultural differences.

Many complain about the lack of freedom of speech in China. However, comparing with other nations, Chinese citizens enjoy much more "freedom" in some certain fields.

In fact, for many Chinese, online violence, like hurling abuse and threats, seems not to be a big deal. Shielded behind the "freedom of speech," many Chinese netizens make unbridled attacks and threats against others, unaware that these behaviors are forbidden by law. Hurling abuse can damage the victim's reputation, and meanwhile menace is the first step to commit any possible crimes. These acts are not protected by freedom of speech.

Every time when the above situation occurs, there are always people appealing for an improved Chinese legal system. Actually, Chinese laws clearly prohibited hurling abuse and menaces.

However, facing mounting online violence, police rarely intervene. Yet, ironically, the concerning authorities make swift and effective investigations into the violence once some "significant" figures or institutions are targeted.

A number of cases of online violence have not caught the attention of the authorities due to various objective and subjective factors, for instance, a limited police presence and the need to cultivate a "free" atmosphere for speech.

In addition, some online violence has not resulted in actual harm to others. These, plus a lack of sense of legal awareness, have given rise to a "cultural" phenomenon unique to China that people are "free" to make unbridled threats online.

It is true that Ni needs to adapt to US culture. However, be it in China or in the US, threatening to shoot professors on social media is far beyond the scope of "culture." It is known to all that this is an unlawful act.

Ni's father is absurd to use "culture" to defend his son's wrongdoings. In addition, Ni has already spent about three years studying in the US, adapting himself to local culture.

China Youth Daily

Freedom of speech can't turn violent

According to Ni, by making the post online, he was just attempting to highlight his diligence after studying until 11 pm in the library. He had not taken the "joking" comments seriously until being approached by police.

Ni feels to have been wronged. Although playful sometimes, Ni was hardworking and had been granted scholarship before. He claimed that he has no actual malicious intentions against his professors.

For many Chinese, Ni's post may be just a joke, and the US seems to have overacted by deporting Ni back to China.

Others believe the UI's "sensitivity" is reasonable. Following the Lu Gang tragedy in 1991, it is understandable for the university to stay on high alert to the threat.

However, interpreting Ni's case totally from the perspective of history is obviously narrow. People should learn from this incident.

First of all, the freedom of speech has its boundaries. The US respects freedom. The freedom of speech is protected in its constitution. However, it does not mean citizens can be irresponsible in their words. They can be held criminally liable for threatening speech, or civilly liable for libel.

In addition, people should respect and revere rules and regulations in a nation ruled by law. The US police confiscated Ni's gun the next day after Ni posted threatening comments online. Within three days, Ni was expelled and deported. This shows the high efficiency of the US police.

In fact, cases of Chinese overseas students being punished abroad are growing in recent years. Not long ago, the US court has sentenced three Chinese students to between 6 years and 13 years in prison. The defendants were convicted on charges of kidnapping and torture in an attack on a fellow student where they stripped her naked and burnt her with cigarettes. In China, these students might only be punished by the university, rather than the court.

Chinese adults are always tolerant of teenagers. They prefer educating the students to punishing them by law. As a result, many young people lack reverence and respect for the law.

There are always complaints about the ineffectiveness of China's legal system. However, the power of the law lies in its strict enforcement. Everyone should be treated equally under the law. No illegal practice can be tolerated in a nation ruled by law.

Threats dangerously ignored on Internet

Ni's case has sparked a heated discussion online. While some feel pity for this Chinese student, others criticize Ni for his threatening comments. Ni insists that he was just joking, and did not expect the university to take the post so seriously.

Some attribute the incident to cultural differences between China and the US. It seems that such behavior is not a big deal in China. It is common that students escape from punishment after bullying others on Chinese campus. In fact, Ni's case has nothing to do with cultural differences. The truth is that Chinese students lack a consciousness of obeying the rules. While teenagers' wrongdoing is always tolerated in China, they receive due punishment in the US.

If a Chinese university decides to punish its students for threatening teachers, it may face criticism from public opinion. Punishment may even trigger netizens to vent their dissatisfaction and complaints against Chinese education and universities online. As a result, the threatened teachers are perceived as the unreasonable ones instead. Students, on the other hand, are cool about their wrongdoings.

The US teachers, on the contrary, choose to report the students to the police, which will investigate and turn the case over to the courts. Students can be ruled to apologize to teachers and pay the price for their wrongdoings. In addition, the penalties have to be paid by students, instead of their parents. This is educating teenagers to obey rules. Young people are taught to pay for their mistakes.

Teaching students to obey rules is a prerequisite for them to becoming qualified citizens. However, rule education is facing a number of difficulties in China. First of all, in most cases, the universities are governed by the administration rather than rules. Given the university's reputation as well as the future of students, mistakes are often tolerated. Thus, it is not surprising that Chinese students lack a consciousness of obeying rules.

Strengthening rule education is fundamental to curb juvenile delinquency. Preaching is not enough. Students should be cultivated in an environment where rules are respected and revered. Ni's case needs rational reflections. Anyone who breaches rules should be punished. This is the core of rule education.

Guangming Online

Posted in: Viewpoint

blog comments powered by Disqus