Learning from jealousy motivated murders
Published: Nov 28, 2013 06:58 PM Updated: Nov 29, 2013 04:04 PM
Illustration: Lu Ting/GT

Illustration: Lu Ting/GT

This Wednesday was a sad day in Shanghai with news of two murder cases in the city.

From 9:30 am to 6:15 pm, the Shanghai No.2 Intermediate People's Court heard the case of a dormitory poisoning on the campus of Fudan University. The story began on March 31 this year when Lin Senhao put a toxic chemical into the water dispenser in the dorm room he shared with two other graduate students of the medical college attached to Fudan. The following day, Huang Yang, Lin's roommate, drank the water and fell seriously ill. Huang died of liver, lung and kidney failure on April 16.

Prosecutors charged Lin with intentional homicide, arguing that the murder was motivated by disputes over "trivial daily matters." Lin admitted poisoning Huang but his lawyer argued that he didn't intend to kill. He only wanted to play an April Fool's trick on his roommate.

The court will announce a verdict in the near future.

The second item of news is that the body of a missing four-month-old baby boy named Ma Qingyou was found at 6pm in a washing machine in his family home in Songjiang district.

The boy's family reported him missing to local police Sunday morning. The public initially assumed that he had been kidnapped, the latest victim of human trafficking in the country. According to Chinese media, the infant was dismembered.

The official Weibo account of the Shanghai police claimed that the boy's aunt, surnamed Lei, had confessed to killing her nephew over "family disputes."

Based on details revealed from the live broadcast of the Fudan case court hearing and media reports of the Songjiang case, it seems a striking similarity between the two cases is that murder was apparently committed over jealousy and long-standing grudges, whether or not the defendants admit it.

Both postgraduate students at Fudan, Lin and Huang had been roommates since 2011. According to classmates, Huang was an extrovert who got along well with others. He was also studious and won admission to pursue his doctorate degree at Fudan as a top student at the beginning of the year.

Lin told the court that he was an introverted person and didn't attach much importance to interpersonal relationships. Lin gave up ambitions to sit the national doctorate candidate examination after he was turned down by the professor he requested as a supervisor. Acquaintances believe that the doctorate issue played a role in the murder, although Lin denied it was a motivating factor.

In the Songjiang case, the family is from Anhui Province and runs a breakfast stall in the neighborhood where they live. Lei is the mother of a 1-year-old girl. It is reported that because of the countryside tradition of viewing sons as better than daughters, Lei felt that her family wasn't valued by her parents-in-law. Instead, because they had a boy, her sister-in-law's family enjoyed a higher status.

It seems that both Lin and Lei suffered psychological stress after being subjected to unfavorable comparisons when they committed the crimes.

Competition between classmates, colleagues, business rivals, and even family members are often fierce. Most people cannot help but compare themselves with others.

In our childhood, our behavior and academic performance are measured against our siblings and classmates. Later on, our jobs, incomes, living standards, spouses and even children are appraised by relatives, friends, colleagues, neighbors and acquaintances.

Appropriate comparisons can serve as encouragement to help people have an example to learn from or set a target to achieve the same height one day.

But it's hard to determine what an appropriate level of comparison is. There are several factors that must be taken into consideration.

First, we have to make sure that the two people can be fairly compared. Some people have natural advantages over others.

Second, if a comparison is made to motivate someone, it should be worded diplomatically.

But in reality, we can only accept the fate of being targets of all kinds of comparison. Few consider whether we are fairly treated or psychologically stressed.

In both the Fudan and Songjiang cases, we found not only loss of lives, but the extreme consequences of petty jealousy and grudge holding.

As a parent, teacher, neighbor, team leader, group executive or even administrative leader, are we making unfair or inaccurate comparisons too often? If so, let's try to make a change.

The author is the managing editor of Global Times Metro Shanghai.