Police in the southern Hainan province have arrested two men over the death of their mentally disabled relative, who fell into the sea Monday and was found dead a day later.
The men — surnamed Yang and Li, from the central province of Hunan — went to the police Monday to report that Yang’s 38-year-old son had fallen off a pier into the waves below. They described the fall as an accident.
Hours later, officers detained the two men on suspicion of intentionally pushing Yang’s son into the sea, Sixth Tone’s sister publication The Paper reported. The son’s body was discovered the next day.
Local police told The Paper they suspect Yang intended to drown his son in order to claim an insurance payout. The 64-year-old previously worked in the insurance industry, according to The Paper. Details of the specific disorder Yang’s son was diagnosed with have not been reported.
In a video posted Tuesday by online media outlet Pear Video, a man identified as Yang complains about the burden of raising a son with a mental disability, and claims his family has debts amounting to around 800,000 yuan ($118,000).
“He has been a drain on our whole family,” the man says, adding that his son has three children. “I was possessed by a ghost when I made the decision (to push him into the sea), and it’s too late for regrets.”
The case has drawn enormous attention online, with related hashtags receiving millions of views on social platform Weibo over the past two days. While many users have condemned Yang’s actions, others have expressed sympathy toward families trying to support relatives with mental disorders.
“To quote the movie ‘Dying to Survive,’ there’s only one disease in the world, and it’s poverty,” read an upvoted comment under Pear Video’s post.
“Indeed, it’s miserable for the old father to bear such a huge burden of raising a mentally disabled child,” wrote another user. “But that shouldn’t be an excuse for murder.”
Cui Yonglan employs around 50 workers with mental disabilities at her packaging factory in the eastern Shandong province. The 49-year-old says she was heartbroken when she heard about the case in Hainan.
“I’ve known quite a lot of families affected by mental disabilities, and I understand how difficult it can be for them to cope with their children,” Cui told Sixth Tone. “I feel more of a responsibility to create opportunities for these children, so that they can earn a living independently instead of being a burden on their families.”
There were 5.7 million people with mental disabilities living in China in 2010, the last year for which official figures are available. However, nongovernmental organizations estimate the current number could be as high as 12 million.
Several cases of parents killing their mentally disabled children have made headlines in China in recent years. Couples who have children with mental disorders often encounter social stigma, financial challenges, and a lack of support services, especially for adults with disabilities.
In August 2019, the grandfather and father of an 8-year-old with cerebral palsy were each sentenced to over 10 years in prison for drowning the girl in a river.
In December 2018, a pregnant woman killed herself and her 7-year-old autistic son after the parents of several of the child’s classmates had called her son “dangerous.”
Editor: Dominic Morgan.
(Header image: People Visual)