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    After Another Campus Death, a Mother Demands Answers

    Authorities in Chengdu say a 16-year-old student died by suicide with no signs of foul play, but his parents have accused the school being negligent and evasive in its handling of the tragedy.
    May 11, 2021#education

    The death of a high schooler in the southwestern city of Chengdu over the weekend has raised fresh questions after the boy’s mother disputed the official account of her son’s supposed suicide.

    Authorities in the city’s Chenghua District said Tuesday that 16-year-old sophomore Lin Weiqi died after falling from a building. The statement — which followed a joint investigation by the local police and education bureau, among other departments — added that the student from Chengdu No. 49 High School had died of suicide “due to personal issues,” and ruled out the possibility of foul play.

    But Weiqi’s mother, surnamed Lu, doesn’t buy this, saying the school has been less than transparent with her since the tragedy. She wasn’t informed of her son’s death until two hours later, she said, which has left her clamoring for the real account of his last moments.

    “The school’s current strategy is to shut all of us out, and not tell us what exactly happened,” Lu wrote in a post Monday morning on microblogging platform Weibo. “Our request to see the surveillance footage was rejected. When we tried to question other students about the incident, the school dismissed the entire class and warned them to keep their mouths shut.”

    The mother later said that her family was eventually allowed to see the security footage, though the part of the video where her son supposedly fell was missing.

    In a separate post Monday, Lu said the police told her that her son’s body was taken directly to a funeral home instead of to the hospital, where a coroner could have given an authoritative cause of death. To her, this raised further questions about the school’s handling of the boy’s death.

    According to domestic media, Weiqi’s body is still at the funeral home, and has yet to be buried or cremated.

    Responding to Lu’s concerns, Chengdu No. 49 High School said an ambulance was called immediately after the student fell, but by the time it arrived, the boy had no vital signs.

    The school has also refuted online rumors that one of its teachers pushed the boy to his death so his own child could have Weiqi’s study abroad spot, according to domestic outlet Toutiao News.

    Sixth Tone’s phone calls to Chengdu No. 49 High School went unanswered Tuesday.

    According to Shanghai-based lawyer Ding Jinkun, the school may have violated standard procedure for handling school-related injuries and accidents by failing to inform the parents of their child’s death immediately. He added that the parents — if their account is true — should be compensated for mental distress.

    “The appropriate procedure for handling this is to rescue (the student) immediately, secure the evidence at the site, report to the higher-ups in a timely fashion, while at the same time informing the parents,” Ding told Sixth Tone. “Without hindering the case’s procedure, parents should be able to check for on-site monitoring, and there should be an autopsy to ascertain the cause of death.”

    Last year, the father of a student at Jiangsu University in eastern China went through a similar ordeal after his son’s supposed suicide. That parent, too, accused the school of mishandling the case after being informed of his son’s death four hours later.

    Lu, meanwhile, is determined to find out the true circumstances surrounding her son’s death, which has left her grieving on Mother’s Day. On Weibo, millions have expressed their sympathy and condolences while amplifying Lu’s calls for more transparency.

    “I will keep demanding the truth from the police and the school, and to speak to my son’s teacher. I demand to see all the video footage!” she wrote in one of her Weibo posts.

    As news of Weiqi’s death has spread, locals have gathered outside the school’s main entrance, which remains cordoned-off by police, one local resident told Sixth Tone. Some have brought flowers and laid them outside the gate in memory of the young life cut short.

    Editor: Bibek Bhandari.

    (Header image: Lin Weiqi’s mother sits outside the high school where her son died in Chengdu, Sichuan province, May 10, 2021. From @四十九中林同学妈妈 on Weibo)