Archive for May 10th, 2013

[2013-05-10] 1990s Poisoning Case Re-emerges, Unleashing Fresh Chinese Fury

Posted by woodinwind on May 10, 2013

1990s Poisoning Case Re-emerges, Unleashing Fresh Chinese Fury


Published: May 10, 2013

BEIJING — The mysterious illness began with crippling stomach pain, followed by blurry vision and sudden hair loss. By the time Zhu Ling, a talented musician and chemistry student at one of China’s top universities, emerged from a coma weeks later, she was partially paralyzed and nearly blind, her faculties reduced to those of a child.

The Help Zhu Ling Foundation

An undated photo of Zhu Ling, who was a 19-year-old student at one of China’s top universities when she was poisoned.

The 19-year-old sophomore, doctors later determined, had been intentionally poisoned with thallium, a highly toxic heavy metal sometimes used in Chinese rat poison. A culprit was never found, though suspicions fell on a roommate from a well-connected family who was questioned by the police but then released.

Now, nearly two decades after Ms. Zhu was poisoned, with her name forgotten by all but a determined band of supporters, her case has ricocheted back into public consciousness, electrifying the nation with allegations of a bungled investigation and uncomfortable questions about the power of China’s political elite in a society where justice remains elusive.

In recent days, Chinese social media has been consumed by the case despite an earlier effort to quash the conversation through aggressive censorship, a move that only fueled wider interest — and greater fury. “Nineteen years ago, the young Zhu Ling was poisoned,” Yao Chen, a film star with 45 million followers, wrote on China’s equivalent of Twitter. “Nineteen years later, this name has again been poisoned.”

On Monday, an online petition was submitted to the White House’s “We the People” platform imploring the American government to intervene in the case. The petition, which had drawn more than 143,000 signatures by Friday, calls on the Obama administration to deport to China the primary suspect, despite a lack of evidence that she even lives in the United States.

“There was always anger and frustration over this case but it’s exploding right now,” said John Aldis, who has followed Ms. Zhu’s plight since his years as a doctor at the American Embassy in Beijing during the 1990s. “A new generation of Chinese young people are realizing that a terrible injustice was done, and they want their voices to be heard.”

The renewed interest was inspired by a lurid murder last month in Shanghai, where a medical student at the prestigious Fudan University was accused of spiking the water of his roommate with a toxic chemical. The police said the student, who has been charged with intentional homicide, was driven by a grudge described as “trivial.”

What began as an online conversation about the pressures of China’s cutthroat education system and the dearth of mental health services gave way to discussion of other cases of poisoning in China, many of them committed by students consumed with jealousy.

But it was the attempted murder of Zhu Ling — and the notion that the perpetrator was given a free pass because of her political pedigree — that dominated the discussion. Those suspicions tapped into the widely held belief that well-placed Communist Party officials and their relatives are above the law.

“We want what we’ve always wanted — truth and justice,” Wu Chengzhi, Ms. Zhu’s father, said in a brief phone interview.

Although the narrative of the case is riddled with unanswered questions and unsubstantiated allegations, Ms. Zhu’s family and supporters have latched onto the one known fact: that Ms. Zhu’s roommate at Tsinghua University, Sun Wei, had access to thallium and was questioned by the police, but was quickly released, according to accounts in the state media.

The police say they lacked evidence for an arrest. Critics have speculated without any proof that Ms. Sun’s grandfather, a senior official in the decades after the Communists came to power, and another relative, a former vice mayor of Beijing, had made the problem go away. As for a possible motive, they suggest that Ms. Sun was envious of the victim’s beauty, and of her musical and academic achievements.

Ms. Zhu’s friends say crucial evidence from her dorm room disappeared before the police began their investigation. According to Mr. Wu, the father, investigators closed the case in 1998 but did not tell the family for nearly a decade.

“If the investigation reopens, there should also be an investigation of police wrongdoings and who tried to intervene with the original investigation,” said Zhang Jie, a lawyer who represents Ms. Zhu’s family.

Despite the mounting pressure, the authorities are not keen to revisit the matter. On Wednesday, in a rare public response to media inquiries, the Beijing Public Security Bureau defended its investigation but said the passage of time and paucity of evidence limited its ability to reopen the case. The statement also rejected accusations that its inquiry had been influenced by outsiders. “The dedicated investigation team worked according to law, and the investigation was never compromised or interfered with in any way,” it said.

But in one encouraging sign for Zhu Ling’s supporters, the topic has been unblocked on Sina Weibo, China’s most popular microblog service, suggesting that high-level officials have decided that suppressing the controversy is counterproductive.

Still, the case has become something of a public relations challenge for China’s new leadership. In the five months since he was appointed Communist Party secretary, Xi Jinping has been trying to address rampant public cynicism by attacking official corruption and the abuse of power, although most of those efforts have so far been widely viewed as superficial.

In one especially ham-handed attempt to grapple with the controversy, Global Times, a bilingual tabloid published by the party-owned People’s Daily, said in an editorial that public indignation over the Zhu Ling case was largely the result of poor communication by the authorities. But the editorial acknowledged that the truly powerful can influence the criminal justice system by insisting that Ms. Sun’s family “was not distinguished enough” to have such sway.

The accused has remained out of public view these past two decades, although after her name began to spread across the ether in 2005, she posted a brief online defense, saying she was innocent and in fact also a victim because of the unfounded accusations against her. “On the Internet, even though everyone is just a virtual ID, one should still be rational, objective and responsible for their own words and actions,” she wrote.

The case has provided a fascinating showcase for the power of the Internet. It was in early 1995, after Ms. Zhu’s illness stumped doctors at one of Beijing’s premier hospitals, that a desperate high school classmate posted a cry for help on one of the few wired computer terminals then available in China. Amid the hundreds of replies from Western medical experts, most correctly identified the syndrome as thallium poisoning and suggested the antidote — a commercial dye known as Prussian blue.

The information saved Ms. Zhu’s life, but she remains severely disabled, her aging parents forced to tend to her round the clock. Despite the authorities’ refusal to reopen the investigation, her 72-year-old mother, Zhu Mingxin, has said she is not willing to give up. “In the prime of her youth she nearly lost her life and she’s been miserable ever since,” she told China National Radio earlier this week. “I hate the perpetrator.”

In recent years, the family has been receiving help from an American-based nonprofit that has been raising money and reminding people that the crime remains unsolved.

The renewed focus on her case has prompted a flood of contributions that recently surpassed $520,000. He Qing, a volunteer with the group, the Help Zhu Ling Foundation, has been moved by the response as well as by the frustration expressed online.

“It’s the lack of justice, the unfairness and the feeling that people with privilege can get away with anything,” said Ms. He, an automotive engineer from China who now lives in Michigan. “People have just had enough.”

Mia Li and Sue-Lin Wong contributed research.

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[2013-05-10] 律师李春光向北京警方申请公开朱令案信息

Posted by woodinwind on May 10, 2013


作者: 综合

2013-05-10 14:59:55来源:infzm.com

央视东方时空节目《朱令的十二年》相关资料图片:清华时的朱令。 (央视/图)




5月9日13点半左右,“@李春光先生”再次发布微博声明:“作为朱令令的代理律师,本人依授权于2013年5月9日12时左右向北京市公安局寄送了《信息公开申请书》,要求:公开北京市公安局“结办”“朱令令案” 的事实材料依据、规范性文件依据以及相关程序文书资料等信息;对该案中“不予公开的相关涉密材料”的密级及保密期限予以公开”。






5月9日,李春光在官方微博发布,作为朱令令的代理律师,他依授权于2013年5月9日12时左右向北京市公安局寄送了《信息公开申请书》,要求:公开北京市公安局“结办”“朱令令案” 的事实材料依据、规范性文件依据以及相关程序文书资料等信息;对该案中“不予公开的相关涉密材料”的密级及保密期限予以公开。 (新浪微博/图)

网络编辑: 瓦特 图片编辑 李夏同

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[2013-05-10] Unsolved mystery of woman’s poisoning stokes passions in China

Posted by woodinwind on May 10, 2013


Unsolved mystery of woman’s poisoning stokes passions in China

By Don Lee

May 10, 2013, 6:00 a.m.

BEIJING — She was a promising student at Beijing’s prestigious Tsinghua University, a talented musician who loved to swim and dreamed of studying German and computer science.

But in her sophomore year, Zhu Ling began suffering acute stomach pains and hair loss, eventually becoming severely disabled. Lab tests showed she had been poisoned with thallium, a toxic metal used in rat poisons, but police made no arrests and quietly closed the investigation.

Today, 19 years after Zhu first fell ill, she remains paralyzed, nearly blind and has the mental capacity of a child. And her case is suddenly generating a firestorm on Internet discussions in China and elsewhere, highlighting the Chinese public’s anger over perceived injustices, the powerful force of social media and the deep pains of a family that for two decades has sought answers from secretive authorities. 

Zhu’s sad story has been publicized before, but a surge of sympathy expressed on the Internet started after the news last month of the poisoning death of a Shanghai university student.

In recent days, China’s Twitter-like service, Sina Weibo, and other microblogs have been flooded with posts demanding that the case be reopened. Many allege that Zhu’s roommate, now believed to be living in the United States, was behind her poisoning but that police dropped the matter because the roomate’s family was politically connected.

The activism has gone abroad as well, with more than 130,000 people having signed a petition on the White House website urging the U.S. to investigate and deport the suspect.

Chinese government censors, always mindful of anything that could trigger social unrest, deleted references to Zhu Ling on Weibo for a time, but the ban was lifted Monday as authorities apparently deemed the cyberspace protest manageable.

Then on Wednesday, Beijing police issued the government’s first public statement on Zhu, denying there was any outside interference and expressing regret that the crime couldn’t be solved because of a lack of direct evidence.

Zhu’s family lawyer, Li Chunguang, said in an interview Thursday that the statement only raised more questions. He said police told the family in 2007 that authorities received the case two months after Zhu was hospitalized, but the statement said it wasn’t until nearly six months later. If not direct evidence, what indirect findings did police have from the more than 130 people it said crime experts interviewed?

“The first priority is, if you can, find the [suspect], but if that couldn’t be done, at least you can show us the detailed investigation procedure,” he said, noting that it wasn’t until 2007 that Zhu’s family learned that police had closed its investigation in August 1998. Li said he was prepared to bring legal action against the government, however fruitless that might be. “We want to know the truth,” he said.

Zhu’s case was mysterious from the start. When she was hospitalized in late 1994, doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong. It wasn’t until early the next year that Zhu’s friends, tapping what then was China’s very limited Internet connectivity, sent requests for help online to the medical world outside, according to accounts from Zhu’s classmates. Many doctors replied that the likely cause was thallium poisoning, but by then, Zhu’s condition had deteriorated.

Beijing’s public security bureau statement said that the diagnosis was made April 28, 1995, and that Tsinghua University reported it to police on May 5, after which a team of experts was immediately assigned.

In China’s blogosphere, many point to Zhu’s former roommate, Sun Wei, identified as Jasmine Sun in the the White House petition. (The White House declined to comment on the petition, except to say that it reviews all petitions that receive enough signatures; the threshold is 100,000.)

Sun was questioned by police, but they took no further action, according to the state-run China Daily.

But what accounts for the particular ire directed at Sun may be that she is the granddaughter of a powerful industrial leader, the late Sun Yueqi. Children of the elite are widely believed to enjoy special privileges.

The Times was unable to reach Sun’s family, including her father in Beijing, for comment.

The sympathy for Zhu is rooted in anger over injustice, said Zhao Jing, a closely followed blogger in Beijing who uses the pen name Michael Anti. In particular, he said, “it’s an echo from that kind of rage against the guan er dai,” a mocking reference to the “second generation” of officials, those who are descendants of powerful cadres in China.

Li, the Zhu family attorney, said Thursday that “police have a responsibility to give an answer on Sun Wei, whether she was a real suspect. I think it’s also for Sun Wei’s sake.”

Li, who said he started to represent the Zhu family on Tuesday, knows it will be difficult to make the investigation results public. But, he said, the Chinese legal system has been paying more attention to the rights of victims, in no small part because of activism on the Internet.

“The family has been helpless for so many years before the recent attention on Weibo,” said Li, who is from the southern Chinese city of Kunming. “And it all started with that [poison] murder case at Fudan university” in Shanghai. In that case, police quickly arrested the victim’s roommate.

Although China’s online vigilantism makes some people nervous, Zhan Jiang, a communications professor at Beijing Foreign Studies University, sees the attention to  Zhu generated by social media as a healthy sign, even as such cases present some risks for the central government.

“If you continue to repress this, it won’t stop it,” he said of the short-lived blocking of discussion on Zhu. “This case will give an opportunity and be helpful for the rule of law to go one step forward,” he said.

For Zhu’s parents, who are in their 70s and spend their days and nights taking care of their daughter, there is little solace in all the Internet attention.

“She has always brought me happiness since she was little,” Zhu’s mother, Zhu Mingxin,said in an interview this week with China National Radio. “If everything went as we had planned for her, I’m sure she would be doing a great and I would be really happy for her. But now, all is lost.”


Tommy Yang and Nicole Liu in The Times’  Beijing bureau contributed to this report.

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