mandag 17. mai 2021

How missing CCTV footage turned a Chinese family’s tragedy into a national conspiracy

On Mother’s Day last Sunday, 17-year-old Lin Weiqi wished his mother – referred to only as Madame Lu in Chinese media – a good day. “Mum, enjoy your day,” he said to her that morning. He was Lu’s only child. Like most Chinese parents of the one-child generation, Lin was her pride and joy.

Late in the afternoon, before Lin had gone back to his school in the south-western city of Chengdu, Lu prepared snacks for him in case he was hungry in the evening. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary until an hour later. Lin had fallen from a building and was dead, the school told Lu and her husband two hours after the incident. His body had been sent to the undertaker already, the police said, which meant the parents were not able to see their son for the last time.The school said it had immediately called an ambulance but by the time it had arrived, Lin was dead.

Lu told Chinese media later that, that same night and through the early morning, she and her husband had first asked to see their son’s body, then the location of the alleged incident and the surveillance footage. “But to no avail,” she said. Desperate and heartbroken, Lu took to the Chinese social media site Weibo on Monday morning, pleading for help. “We are law-abiding and reasonable citizens … as a mother, I just want to see my son. Where is he lying in the cold, who can tell me?” she wrote. “I’m sorry, son, your mother wasn’t able to protect you; cannot even ask for justice for you.”

The post went viral within a few hours. Hundreds of thousands of Weibo users responded with outpourings of sympathy and criticism of the school, the police and “the system”. A related hashtag was created, which so far has been read more than 1.8 billion times.