Detailed report sheds light on 16-year-old student's death, dismissing online rumors and easing public sentiment
Published: May 13, 2021 12:26 PM
Photo: Weibo account of People's Daily

Photo: Weibo account of People's Daily

After doubts and rumors had been simmering for a day on social media around the tragic death of a 16-year-old student in Southwest China's Sichuan Province, a comprehensive report released by the Xinhua News Agency early Thursday morning clarified how he ended up falling to his death from a high school building. 

The detailed report, which included surveillance footage, on-site pictures and testimonies, dismissed the brewing online sentiment against the school and local authorities, whose response to the parents' grief and concerns had been seen as "insensitive," too brief and lacking in details.

Thousands of netizens swarmed onto Sina Weibo on Thursday, calling on some Chinese netizens to be rational in controversial cases like this before they make any extreme remarks. Some said if the school and local authorities had initially released such a detailed response, it would not have provided a breeding ground for online rumors and irrational criticism.  

The tragedy highlighted the need for more care in addressing students' psychological problems in families and schools, some observers said.

The detailed Xinhua report addressed the concerns of netizens by using surveillance footage, testimony and interviews, thus dismissing online rumors one by one. 

Police in Chenghua district said all the surveillance footage recorded how the student, surnamed Lin, from the 49th High School in Chengdu, fell to his death on campus on Sunday, and showed that not a single section of the footage had been missed out, as netizens and Lin's mother had wrongly claimed. 

Lin's father, together with a lawyer and a relative, watched all the surveillance footage at the police station on Monday morning. As the footage was key evidence in the case, the police had recorded and sealed it, which meant Lin's parents were not able to watch it immediately on Sunday night. 

On-site footage and fingerprints demonstrated that Lin fell to his death at 6:40 pm from a fourth-floor terrace. Videos also showed that minutes before he jumped, Lin had cut his left wrist with what is believed to be a knife, his head was bowed and shaking, and he appeared to be depressed.

Shortly after Lin jumped, a staff member from the school canteen called the ambulance and police. A doctor pronounced the student dead on site at 7:06 pm. Later, police delivered Lin's body to the funeral parlour in accordance with legal procedures. Lin's body was kept at the parlour, but not cremated as online rumors claimed.

Lin's heartbroken mother took to Sina Weibo to protest on Monday morning, questioning whether the ambulance arrived too late and accusing the school of refusing to show her the complete footage from surveillance cameras on site. 

As for why the school notified Lin's parents about two hours after the incident, as some netizens and Lin's mother claimed, the school said it took about an hour for teachers to identify Lin because of the severity of the injuries to his head. When his teacher identified Lin at 7:54 pm, she was in a state of emotional trauma.

Police also dismissed rumors alleging Lin had been pushed from the building by a chemistry teacher whose child is competing with him for a place to study abroad.

Police said there was no evidence to suggest a crime had been committed, and no instances of corporal punishment, insults or campus bullying were found, echoing the statement released by the education bureau of Chenghua district on Tuesday morning.

Police found that the reason Lin jumped to his death might be related to psychological issues. Lin had expressed thoughts of jumping from the school building to relieve his sorrow in a QQ chat with his friend in June 2020, and used self- deprecating and anxious language in a QQ chat this May.

Some of Lin's classmates described him as introvert, and teachers at the school said Lin was a boarder there and had excellent academic grades.

Lin's mother said she had not noticed anything unusual with her son recently. "I picked up my son last weekend. He told me he had done badly in a test because he did not sleep well… We were discussing our summer vacation… He smiled to me and said goodbye when I sent him to school on Sunday," she told a Xinhua reporter on Wednesday morning. 

Cases of suicide and self-harm have occurred occasionally in recent years, as psychological problems among school students become more widespread. Lin's school also admitted it is weak in psychological education.