16-year-old student's death sparks questions from public over school's, education bureau's response
Published: May 12, 2021 02:42 AM
The 49th High School of Chengdu Photo: Screenshot of Weibo

The 49th High School of Chengdu Photo: Screenshot of Weibo

The tragedy of a 16-year-old student, who fell to his death at a high school in Southwest China's Sichuan Province, touched a nerve and stirred a huge online response from the public as netizens criticized the school's and local educational authorities' response to the parents' grief and concerns as "insensitive."

The student surnamed Lin, from the 49th High School of Chengdu, capital of Sichuan, fell to his death on campus on Sunday. 

Lin's heartbroken mother took her protest to Sina Weibo on Monday morning, asking why the school only informed his parents two hours after the incident and stopped her from entering the school or talking to teachers and other students. 

She also questioned whether the ambulance arrived too late and accused the school of refusing to show her the complete footage from surveillance cameras on site.  

Neither the mother nor the school could be reached for interview as of press time by the Global Times. The mother's accusations against the school could not be immediately verified.

Amid brewing online sentiment, the school issued a brief statement on Monday afternoon saying the fall happened at 6:40 pm. The school called an ambulance and a doctor pronounced the student's death on site. The police launched an investigation and the school is cooperating with them.  

As the case went viral online, the education bureau of Chenghua district released a statement on Tuesday morning which concluded that there was no evidence to suggest a criminal case and no instances of corporal punishment, insults or campus bullying were found. 

"A basic conclusion is that Lin committed suicide for personal reasons," said a statement from the education authorities of Chenghua district. 

The statement, especially the part where they prematurely jumped to the conclusion that Lin's death was suicide even before an official police statement, has further fueled public anger. 

Lin's mother immediately responded on Sina Weibo that she does not agree with the statement as many questions remained unanswered and said that she will continue to seek the truth of the incident. She called the conclusion "hasty."  

On Tuesday, the boy's death was a top trending topic on Sina Weibo, with more than 1 billion times as Tuesday evening. Thousands of netizens swarmed the district education bureau's account, demanding further clarification of the unresolved questions. The heated debate online also bred rumors, including a version that says Lin was pushed from the building by a chemistry teacher whose child is competing with him for a place to  study abroad.

Amid the clamor from the public, local police released a statement on Tuesday night saying that the possibility of a criminal case has been excluded after an on-site investigation, interviews with witnesses, review of surveillance footage and an autopsy. 

The police statement has refrained from saying that Lin's death was a suicide but mentioned that they informed Lin's parents about the result of the investigation and they did not object. 

The concise police statement, which is even shorter than the one provided by the education bureau, triggered a new round of controversy as netizens found the it to be too brief and lacking in details. 

"It's unrealistic for the police to release a detailed report in merely two days but in face of the growing online sentiment, the police cannot afford to be reticent… I believe the authenticity of the police conclusion. So do the parents, according to the police statement. But the police need to convince not only me or the parents, but the public," said Jiangningpopo, an influential online celebrity with over 5 million followers on Weibo, who in real life is a police officer in Nanjing. 

"Disclosing relevant evidence in time and revealing as much information as you have is a responsibility. It will only trigger more speculation and allow public opinion to further ferment if the school does not dare speak up and refuses to provide an explanation in the face of doubts," Xinhua News Agency denounced in a commentary on Tuesday.