Beijing [China], May 14 (ANI): The mysterious death of a 17-year-old student at Chengdu No 49 Middle School on Sunday in China's Sichuan province sparked a public outcry in China.
Uniformed police quickly dispersed the protesters, knocking some to the ground and tackling others, then pushing them away, as seen in several videos that went viral online, reported Los Angeles Times.
It was the latest in a series of recent student deaths in China that have left parents heartbroken and struggling with inadequate answers or accountability for how their children died.
Public anger continued to grow, with millions of online views and comments demanding clarity on the death of the student, snowballing into a rare outburst reminiscent of the demands for free speech that flooded China's internet when whistle-blowing Wuhan doctor Li Wenliang died of COVID-19 at the start of the pandemic last year.
The public anger was a reminder of the frustration with official secrecy and hunger for transparency that simmer beneath the surface in China, and that sometimes can pressure authorities into responding, reported Los Angeles Times.
In this case, they did -- though government clarification came with a price: a silencing of the dead youth's family and a surge of online nationalists accusing those who sought answers of being "tools of foreign forces" trying to instigate unrest. He was cremated on Thursday.
As per the education department of Chengdu and police suggested that the boy had died by suicide.
The education bureau in Chengdu's Chenghua district issued a one-page statement on Tuesday saying that a student surnamed Lin at Chengdu No 49 Middle School was found to have jumped to his death "due to personal problems" on Sunday, which sparked an uproar.
They also said that there was no evidence suggesting foul play, and they had not found "problems such as corporal punishment, verbal violence, teachers' misconduct and bullying" at the school.
"After on-site inspections, speaking to witnesses, checking surveillance records, inspecting electronic data, checking documentary evidence and autopsy, it was determined that Lin died by falling from a high place," the police later said, supporting the investigation.
These statements only aroused more anger. Online, furious commenters demanded surveillance footage leading up to Weilin's death. In Chengdu, dozens of mostly young supporters came to lay flowers at the school gate, only to be blocked by police, according to reporting on the scene by Hong Kong-based outlet Initium Media.
"The Chengdu incident shows that mainland China is in a deep social crisis," tweeted Cai Xia, a former Central Party School professor who fled to the United States last year after criticizing Chinese President Xi Jinping's rule.
"The student dies an unclear death, the school disperses classmates and threatens them against speaking; the parents are heartbroken, sitting alone at the school gate," Cai said. "Without justice or kindness, without even a hint of compassion, can this society still let people live?"
The outcry began with a mother's anguished plea on Monday for help on Chinese social media platform Weibo. Her son, Lin Weilin, had fallen to his death from a school building Sunday evening. She had not been notified until hours after it happened, she said, and then was denied access to the campus, reported Los Angeles Times.
The school claimed there was no surveillance footage of the incident, warned students not to speak about it and sent the boy's body directly to a funeral parlor without letting the parents see it, she said.
When she called local media for help, reporters told her they couldn't report on such things. Some warned her and her husband not to waste energy trying to speak up.
Her son had just wished her "Happy Mother's Day" before his sudden death that day, she added. "Son, your spirit is in the heavens. Please tell Mama what happened. Mama will always be waiting for you at the school gate."
A photograph of the mother sitting cross-legged in front of the school's closed security gates, head bowed and holding a photograph of her son, spread across the Chinese internet.
Many commenters noted the irony of the school slogan printed on the building behind her: "Seeking truth, seeking reality, pursuing kindness and beauty."
It wasn't the first time a Chinese student had died at school, only for parents to be told that surveillance footage -- which is notoriously ubiquitous in China -- was not available. In April 2020, a 15-year-old girl named He Zhu in Anhui reportedly died after falling off her school building.
Last month, a 14-year-old girl named Hu Yu reportedly jumped to her death from Zhengzhou Experimental Foreign Languages Middle School in Henan.
Similar cases of campus deaths with no footage happened with a 15-year-old girl in Chongqing in April, a 15-year-old girl in Jiangxi province in October and a 16-year-old girl in Shandong province in September, according to parents' testimonies and statements from the schools and local police. (ANI)