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Suspect in Chinese Stewardess Didi Chuxing Murder Case “Jumped into River”

The murder on the 21-year-old flight attendant has raised concerns among netizens on the safety of car-hailing app Didi.

Manya Koetse

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The number one trending topic on Chinese social media on Thursday night (Beijing time) is the murder of a Chinese stewardess by a driver of the Didi Chuxing car-hailing app. The hashtag “Stewardess Didi Murder” (#空姐滴滴打车遇害#) received 110 million views at time of writing.

The 21-year-old Lucky Air flight attendant Li Mingzhu (李明珠) was killed in the early morning of May 6th after she had arranged a ride through Didi, China’s popular Uber-like car-hailing app, and was on her way home from Zhengzhou Airport in Henan province.

Unable to contact their daughter, Li’s family reported her missing on the afternoon of May 7. Her body was discovered by local police the following day.

According to Global Times (report since removed), police confirmed that the woman was killed by the driver with a weapon, but was still at large. Didi Chuxing issued an apology for Li’s death, and said they had “incumbent responsibility.”

Chinese news site Sixth Tone reports that a friend of Li had received messages from her while she was on her way home, saying that her driver was “acting strange” and was telling her that he was “tempted to kiss her.”

The car-hailing company also offered a reward of up to 1 million yuan [US$160,000] for people providing tips on the suspect’s whereabouts. The company issued a photo of the suspect, a 27-year-old male named Liu Zhenhua, on social media platform Weibo.

In a Beijing News interview with the victim’s father on May 10, it was disclosed that Li’s body was found half naked, with over 20 stab wounds.

According to new reports on Thursday night, research teams have found that Didi driver Liu abandoned his car shortly after the murder and then jumped into a nearby river. Police is now searching the area.

For many people in China, the Didi car-hailing app is part of their everyday travel life. In 2017, the company completed 7.43 billion rides for approximately 450 million users in more than 400 cities.

Li Mingzhu’s death has raised public concerns over the safety of the company. Although drivers need to have real-name registration, they can also register an account with another person’s car, as long as the car owner agrees.

“Didi, you need to increase the security level over your drivers!”, some commenters say on Weibo, while others say they are now “afraid to hail a Didi car.”

“I hope that tomorrow’s news will tell me the driver has drowned,” one netizen wrote.

Update: Netease reports on May 11 that a body has been recovered from the water. Further investigation will have to confirm if it is indeed the suspect.

By Manya Koetse, with contributions from Chauncey Jung

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us.


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©2018 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Manya Koetse is the founder and editor-in-chief of whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer, public speaker, and researcher (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends, digital developments, and new media in an ever-changing China, with a focus on Chinese society, pop culture, and gender issues. She shares her love for hotpot on hotpotambassador.com. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Avatar

    winona

    May 13, 2018 at 9:13 pm

    fk. companies that hire employees who have unsupervised power over customers need to have rigorous mental examinations. this is a sobering wake up call to remind you that you really can’t trust anyone.

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China Local News

Netizens Puzzled after Balloon in Shijiazhuang Sky Creates Flight Disruptions

Lots of questions remain after news went trending that the airspace above Shijiazhuang airport was “being occupied.”

Manya Koetse

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The ‘unidentified flying object’ that occupied the controlled airspace above Shijiazhuang International Airport turned out to be a “balloon.” Although operations returned to normal, there is a sense of “balloon panic” on Chinese social media.

The city of Shijiazhuang, the capital of Hebei province, became a trending topic on Chinese social media on Thursday, February 16, after news came out that there were irregularities in the arrivals and departure schedule at Shijiazhuang Airport due to certain activity in the controlled airspace.

Some flights were delayed, canceled, or rerouted on Thursday when the airspace above the Shijiazhuang Zhengding International Airport was reportedly “being occupied” (“空域被占用”/”空域用户占领”) from approximately 11:00 to 13:00 by an “unidentified flying object” (“不明飞行物”).

The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC North China Regional Administration 民航华北局) stated that the object was confirmed to be a balloon.

Later on Thursday, it was announced that regular flight schedules were reinstated. But on social media, the questions remain.

Flying around Weibo are questions such as: What happened? What is going on? What kind of balloon? Does it have anything to do with the U.S.? What does it mean when “a user is occupying the sky” (“空域用户占领”, the wording used in official media)?

Some netizens just posted question marks in response to the news. “All the hot topics of today are just puzzling,” one person responded.

Some of the trending hashtags related to the Shijiazhuang balloon incident are “Balloon Found over Shijiazhuang” (#石家庄上空发现气球#), “CAAC North China Administration States They Discovered a Balloon”(#民航华北局称发现一个气球#), “Shijiazhuang Airport Confirms There Are Delays and Reroutes” (#石家庄机场确有延误和备降情况#), and “Shijiazhuang Temporary Air Control Resolved” (#石家庄临时空中管制已解除#).

“The balloon panic is leading to a lot of speculation, and the stock index dropped in response to the uncertainties,” one netizen said, referring to news that the domestic stock prices saw a drop on Thursday.

Balloons have been a hot topic on Chinese social media ever since early February, when the Pentagon announced it had detected an alleged “Chinese spy balloon” over Montana. Although Chinese authorities claimed it was a civilian weather balloon that went the wrong way due to strong winds, the balloon was shot from the sky on February 4.

Afterward until February 12, three more “unidentified objects” were shot from the sky by U.S. military.

Meanwhile, Chinese officials claimed the American response was hyped and was purposely meant to create an anti-Chinese narrative. In one interview, China’s ambassador to France said that China previously also found American balloons in their airspace, but that it was dealt with in a low key way (#中国低调处理境内上空发现美国气球#).

The hashtag “Shijiazhuang” received 400 million views on Weibo today. The last time the city received so much nationwide attention was three months ago, when Shijiazhuang was among the first places in the country to drastically loosen its Covid measures.

Chinese political commentator Hu Xijin also responded to the Shijiazhuang balloon incident on Thursday, arguing that it is the task of the officials dealing with such incidents to do their best to inform the public in order to avoid raising concerns when there is no follow-up, which also happened earlier this week then authorities claimed to have seen an unidentified object flying above waters near one of its naval bases in Shandong.

For more articles about the balloon incident, check here.

By Manya Koetse 


 

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China Insight

What Happened to Hu Xinyu? Disappearance and Death of 15-Year-Old Student Attracts Widespread Attention in China

Although Hu Xinyu’s school had 119 cameras, his disappearance remained a mystery for 106 days. Near Hu’s remains, a voice recorder was found.

Manya Koetse

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After 106 days of searching, Hu Xinyu’s parents now know their son has passed away. The student’s remains were found at a grain warehouse near his school, but questions still linger on what happened to the 15-year-old and why it took so long to find him.

The case of a Chinese 15-year-old student named Hu Xinyu (胡鑫宇) has been trending on Chinese social media over the past few days. Ever since October of 2022, Hu Xinyu’s case has been a much-discussed topic.

The young man from Jiangxi was missing for 106 days before his body was discovered, leaving many unanswered questions surrounding his death and why search teams were unable to find Hu in the months before.

One of the reasons why Hu Xinyu’s disappearance has been attracting widespread attention is because many people believe there are some details or occurrences surrounding Hu’s case that are purposely being hidden or not revealed to the public.

 
Hu Goes Missing: A Timeline

The story begins on Oct. 14, 2022, when Hu Xinyu, a student at the Zhiyuan Middle School (致远中学), first went missing in Yanshan County, Shangrao City. The Zhiyuan Middle School is a private school where students live in the dorms, only going home to their families on days off. Hu allegedly had good grades as a student at Zhiyuan.

The incident attracted attention due to the peculiar circumstances surrounding it. It was first reported that security cameras allegedly had not recorded the student leaving the school’s premises and that Hu’s family suspected that the security camera system had been tampered with. The school reportedly has a total of 119 cameras installed on its premises.

Later reports claimed that security cameras did in fact capture how Hu left the dorms at 17:51 that day, but there was no footage of him actually leaving the school premises.

On Oct. 15, after unsuccessful attempts by friends and family to locate Hu Xinyu, he was reported as a missing person at the local police office.

On Nov. 20, when Hu had already been missing for over a month, local authorities set up a joint task force to try and speed up efforts to find Hu and further investigate his disappearance. Hu’s social media and bank accounts reportedly had zero activity since he went missing.

On Nov. 22, 2022, Chinese media reported that rescue and search teams still had not found a single clue about where Hu might be. Meanwhile, his parents were gradually losing hope of finding their son back alive.

Missing person posters for Hu Xinyu (via 163.com).

On Nov. 29, 2022, 46 days since Hu went missing, a chemistry teacher by the name of Wang was called in for questioning but he was later released. Weeks later, on Jan. 1, the police informed Hu’s relatives that – despite rumors – they ruled out the possibility of school staff being involved in Hu’s disappearance.

On Dec. 25, 2022, Hu Xinyu’s mother shared some more information via social media about some contents in her son’s old notebooks, in which Hu allegedly had noted how he felt that it was not easy for him to adapt to his living environment at the school and that he felt hindered by his introvert personality. These contents were later deleted again.

After Jan. 7, 2023, the search for Hu continued, including teams with search dogs, and thousands of people volunteered to join.

On Jan. 28, 2023, a body was found hanging near the woods in the Jinji mountain area in the town of Hekou. A voice recorder was also found at the scene.

The body was reportedly found by a local guard who was near the premises with his dog to look for a chicken that had wandered off. The dog started barking at something, and the guard then discovered the remains, which were not immediately clearly visible.

One day later, on Jan. 29, Chinese media reported that DNA research confirmed that the remains belonged to Hu Xinyu. He was wearing his school uniform when his remains were found. Hu’s parents decided to have a post-mortem examination of the body to determine the cause of death. The voice recorder found near Hu’s body was sent for analysis.

The hashtag “Hu Xinyu’s Remains Found” (#胡鑫宇遗体被发现#) was viewed over two billion times on Weibo.

 
The Latest Details Surrounding Hu Xinyu’s Death

Chinese news outlet The Paper reported that the location where Hu’s remains were discovered is a large grain warehouse area just about 300 meters or a 5-minute walk southeast of the Zhiyuan Middle School.

According to a spokesperson of the search & rescue team, the area where Hu was found had been previously included in search efforts (#搜救队曾去胡鑫宇被发现地周围搜寻#).

The biggest questions that remain and that are asked by so many on Chinese social media are: how is it possible that search teams previously did not find Hu if this is where he was all along? Is the place where Hu was found a crime scene or not? How is it possible that security cameras did not capture Hu beyond the dorms?

Some details that surfaced over the past few days provide further information on the case.

On Jan. 31, Chinese media reported that one of Hu’s teachers had discovered something written down by Hu Xinyu on the last page of his notebook: “What would it be like if I’m not longer here?” (#胡鑫宇曾写如果我不活了将会变得怎么样#).

It has also become known that Hu Xinyu purchased the voice recorder that was found with his remains. He purchased the 4GB-capacity recorder on October 4, 2022.

At the time of writing, the data on the recorder was not able to be retrieved (#胡鑫宇购买录音笔数据删除后无法恢复#). A recording device such as the one found near Hu’s body might become damaged due very low or high temperatures or by moist and liquid (#胡鑫宇录音笔已送深圳检测#).

A recording device that allegedly is similar to the one found near Hu Xinyu.

If the original manufacturer would be able to get the data on the recorder, Hu’s relatives finally might get some of the answers they have been waiting for for so long.

According to Hu Xinyu’s father, search and rescue staff previously had in fact been inside the grain warehouse premises, but apparently did not come to the exact location within the warehouse area where Hu was later found (#胡鑫宇父亲称未到达遗体发现点#).

On February 2nd, 2023, a press conference on the latest developments is planned to take place in Yanshan county in Shangrao at 10:00 AM. (Update: read about the press conference here).

 
Societal Distrust, Armchair Detectives, and Social Media

There are multiple reasons why the Hu Xinyu case is attracting such wide attention, and in some ways, the case is similar to the 2021 ‘Chengdu 49 Middle School Incident.’

At the time, the death of 16-year-old Lin Weiqi (林唯麒) also attracted nationwide attention and led to a wave of online rumors and theories on what might have happened to him.

Although Lin never went missing – he fell to his death from the school building, – there was also online speculation about corporal punishment and abuse taking place in the school, with one theory suggesting Lin had been hurt by a chemistry teacher. Just as in the Hu Xinyu case, netizens speculated that the school was trying to cover up the incident.

According to a joint statement later issued by the local propaganda department, police, and the Education Bureau said that they had come to the conclusion that the student had taken his own life due to personal problems.

The Lin Weiqi story sparked concerns at a time when security cameras had become a part of everyday lives. The fact that there were blind spots in the surveillance footage and that cameras never captured how and if Lin actually took his own life triggered doubts among Lin’s relatives and netizens alike.

The case surrounding Lin’s death also attracted nationwide attention in May of 2021.

Many reasoned that since there are security cameras all over the school, there must be a cover-up going on if the incident was not captured on camera. A similar thing happened in the case of the Tangshan BBQ Restaurant Incident in which female customers were assaulted and beaten by a group of men. Although the beating incident was captured by security cameras, the last part of the incident occurred at a nearby alley and was not captured by the outdoor security cameras. This led to a lot of speculation on what happened there and if local government officials were covering something up.

Another factor that plays a role is that there have actually been stories about schools or other institutes covering up scandals in recent years, such as in the RYB Education incident of 2017 that shocked the nation and did not help in improving trust in educational institutes.

Social media also plays an important role in how and why the Hu Xinyu case received so much attention. For some online communities of armchair detectives, identifying suspects and uncovering clues becomes like solving a puzzle, while following the latest details in these high-profile cases also becomes like a form of infotainment for others – comparable to the online sleuthing and major attention for the case of Gabby Petito in the U.S.

Furthermore, those who are closely related to the case also use social media to attract more attention. In Hu Xinyu’s case, his family members personally turned to social media and media reporters to ask for help or update with information. This also makes social media users more involved since they get the feeling they know the family, and sympathize with them. Very different from just reading a headline in the local newspaper, social media users feel involved and get involved.

For now, many social media users would like to see some clarity in this case and a conclusion so that Hu’s family can finally get some of their questions answered.

While many think it is highly likely that local authorities will soon come out with a statement that Hu committed suicide, others think there might still be other outcomes.

“It’s lasted long enough now,” some Weibo commenters write: “What is most important now is to finally know the truth.”

READ UPDATE TO THIS STORY HERE.

By Manya Koetse 

with contributions by Miranda Barnes

 

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For information and support on mental health and suicide, international helplines can be found at www.befrienders.org.
 

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