Since the past few days, the name of a 40 years old Chinese woman are found at every corner of the Internet. It even appeared in tightly censored national media and airwaves, western media, and even generated a Whitehouse We-the-People Petition where it collected over 100,000 signatures within a couple of days and made it "warranted an official response from the White House".
Ms. Zhu Ling was a sophomore student at Qinghua University in 1995, when she was found to be poisoned with Thallium.
As it often happened in Beijing, the case became sensitive when many involved are privileged families and institutions. No one was ever arrested or formally charged. Until today, the case remains unsolved. Thanks to efforts made by a few dedicated friends of Zhu, the case was brought back to public's attention every a few years. However, the ever increasing tension between those with and without, as long as growing Internet accessibility, coupled with growing frustration over censorship rode the case into a perfect storm.
The focus of the recent Internet movement was a roommate of Zhu, named Sun Wei. The net mobs charged Sun poisoned Zhu out of jealousy of her beauty and popularity. Because other roommates stood firmly with Sun, the net mobs also charged it was an act of the entire dorm, and methodically covered by the entire class, who also stood with Sun. The mobs also charged Qinghua University covered the case to save faces, and even former Chinese President Jiang Zemin himself got involved.
Coming from the same finding of facts, that the other roommates not only insisted on Sun's innocence, but also fought for her name and faith against the mobs together, the Seagull felt for Sun. The Seagull does not believe three college girls would hate a roommate for any reason that much so that they would kill her together. If it were not a group job, we would have heard some words on this in twenty years, but we didn't. They still stood with Sun.
One key piece of information is that Sun Wei, Zhu's roommate use Thallium in her research. However, as demonstrated later and confirmed by all, Thallium in the lab was not locked, instead it was placed in a location that was accessible to anyone, including general public. On the other hand, at the time, Thallium was a most common ingredient used in rat poison at the time in China.
People is angry when they see injustice done by the privileged few onto a lovely girl. Sun's grandfather was a famous geologist. Sun's cousin was deputy mayor of Beijing. None of them are communists party members. Although they were placed on high rank positions, their roles were more as political decorations than of any real power. On the other hand, Zhu is also from no ordinary families. Zhu's grandparents were senior professors in Qinghua University. Zhu's mother went to school with many of today's most powerful officials, including her same year classmate Liu Qi, the CCP Party boss of Beijing, and Li Tieying who personally ordered medical assistance for Zhu Ling. Even Zhu's friends are from influential families. By any rate, it is not a typical case of ordinary neighborhood girl fell victim to communist party officials as portrayed by Zhu's friends and perceived by the mobs.
The tactics and strategies of the net mobs are alerting. They published not only Zhu's many classmates at Qinghua University's family addresses, but also harassed their in-laws with hateful phone calls and emails. They published photos and schools of children of these students to 'force them to speak out'. They paralysed their employer's business hotlines and hacked their email accounts. Many communication between Sun and her classmates regarding this case were posted on the web, alas no smoking gun was discovered except that they all believed in Sun's innocence and were willing to fight with her against net mobs.
The best thing that may and should come out of this is a settlement with the Peking Union Medical College Hospital where Zhu Ling was treated in 1995. Despite many obvious symptoms, and despite a high profile international rescue campaign in which dozens of dozens of foreign doctors pointed out the source of poisoning, and despite test done secretly by Zhu's family at another hospital proved Zhu had been poisoned by Thallium, the Hospital refused to treat her as Thallium poisoning for several weeks. It was not they were unfamiliar with the material. Dr Li Shunwei who was in charge of Zhu Ling authored a book on Thallium poisoning years ago, but he specifically ordered no testing of Thallium should be performed. That's why the family had to obtain Zhu's biological sample secretly with help of a sympathetic nurse. Depends which country the court were located, Dr Li would have been convicted from manslaughter to first degree murder if the case would ever went to trial. The reason for the Concord's stubborn refusal to treat Zhu as Thallium poisoning may never be known, but the damage was done. Once a most popular girl in China's top university with stunning beauty and glowing academic scores is now a deformed blind woman who could barely utter her own name. In a civil court, the Beijing Concord Hospital would be found liable to Zhu's tragedy.
The case was not solved in 1995. It would probably remain as such since evidences could be lost and memories had faded. There are many myths we might never know, for example:
- The police interrogated Sun Wei for eight hours at one time. What did they find?
- Any rationale that could help explain the seemingly intentional delay of proper treatment by Dr. Li and the Peking Union Medical College Hospital.
- Potential links between Zhu Ling's case and her sister Zhu Jin's mysterious death in 1989. Zhu Jin, a student of Beijing University, was found dead in a park where she was hiking with her classmates. There were strong evidence which suggested it was a homicide case, but it was never investigated as such.
The most concern of Zhu's family was that both parents were in their seventies. When they were gone, Zhu would not be able to live on her own. Because the Peking Union Medical College Hospital treated her so late, Zhu suffered permanent neural damage to her brain. She has been blind with a intelligence of a toddler. Her health has been deteriorating recently.