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Another University Murder: Time To Get Serious About Dorm Life Problems?

A recent Sichuan university murder case has shocked China’s netizens. As one of the most heinous campus crimes in China’s recent history, it has attracted much public discussion about the underlying factors that played a role in the murder. Is it time for Chinese universities to get more serious about its dormlife problems?

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A recent Sichuan university murder case has shocked China’s netizens. As one of the most heinous campus crimes in China’s recent history, it has attracted much public discussion about the underlying factors that played a role in the murder. Is it time for Chinese universities to get more serious about its dorm life problems?

On the 27th of March, Lu, a 20-year-old art student in a university in Chengdu (Sichuan), was brutally killed and beheaded in his dormitory. Two weeks later, on April 15, a regional branch of Chengdu Police Bureau confirmed to local media that the case was solved and that the suspect, Teng, was placed under arrest. A psychiatric evaluation has been ordered for him.

“March 28 is a day that will be engraved in my mind forever”

According to fellow roommates, Lu and Teng had an altercation on March 26. Lu was singing in their dormitory that night, which reportedly annoyed Teng. When their conflict became physical, the other boys took them apart. The following night, Teng returned to the dorm room with a cooking knife and asked Lu to come out.

Lu’s body was later found in the study area of his dormitory building. As reported by several media, Lu had been stabbed over 50 times and was then decapitated by his roommate. Lu’s brother told The Paper that his younger’s brother’s body was so mutilated after the attack that it had cost 18,000 RMB (±2800 US$) to reattach the body parts by stitching.

While the case is still under court procedure, the victim’s brother has opened a Sina Weibo account to advocate justice for Lu: “Netizen friends, hello,” he wrote on April 18: “I am Lu Haiqiang, the brother of the victim of the 3.28 campus murder case. I first want to thank you for following this case. March 28 2016 is a day that will be engraved in my mind forever..”

“I cannot sleep with all this noise”

Meanwhile, the suspect Teng has admitted to the murder and the police has agreed to psychiatric evaluation. Results of this evaluation will be released in late April or early May. Teng’s mother reportedly said that her son had done two suicide attempts when he was still in high school by cutting his wrists. His family has been seeking psychological help for their son ever since.

Further investigation is needed to establish whether Teng was mentally disturbed at the time of the crime. Teng’s family does not know what caused their son to commit such a heinous crime, but the mother stated that during his first year at university, the boy had called home to complain about dormitory life, saying: “It’s too noisy here at night, all this farting and snoring. I cannot sleep with all this noise.”

“The Fellow that Sleeps on the Bunk above Mine”

What turned a seemingly trivial fight into a matter of life and death? At the base of Teng and Lu’s was a disagreement about the proper use of their shared living space. With half a dozen youngsters living together in a compacted room, China’s campus life is not always easy.

Most universities in China provide on-campus dormitories for their students. A dorm room is often around 20-30 square meters, with bunk beds, tables and wardrobes in the living area. A toilet is included in some cases. For undergraduates, usually 4-8 people live together in one room. Students will be randomly allotted a dormitory at the beginning of their campus life, often sharing with fellow students of the same major or department.

For many students, the dormitory is like their first social environment, second home, and third classroom. Besides sleeping there, students on average spend 5-7 hours in their dorm. Roommates often get along well and end up being friends for life. Chinese folk singer Laolang has a famous song about this kind of roommate friendship, titled The Fellow that Sleeps on the Bunk above Mine (睡在我上铺的兄弟).

Dorm life is not all roses

But dorm life is not all roses. A group of grown-ups living together in a compacted space without knowing each other too well can cause problematic situations. A 2010 survey of 850 university students in Hebei province showed that almost 60% of students were not content with their dorm life; nearly a quarter said they didn’t want to live with their current roommates if they had the choice. Apart from the generally poor living conditions, frictions among roommates are often a source of complaint.

Different backgrounds, peculiar personal habits, certain personalities, and even the social life of each individual can become a cause of disagreement amongst roommates. In a survey of Chengdu universities, 60% of participants said they disliked one or more persons in their dorm.

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Living together with total strangers can be a challenge in itself, but is extra strenuous for China’s single-child generation, who never had to share their space with brothers or sisters. Leaving the comfort of their parents’ home, university dorm life is their first experience of a shared living space. Small things like eating habits and one’s daily rhythm can suddenly become the reason for troubled dorm relations, causing much stress for those involved. For students who are already mentally unstable, this might worsen their condition.

While most conflicts stop at cold words or small mischiefs, they sometimes get out of hand. In 2004, biochemistry student Ma Jiajue at China’s Yunnan University killed four of his roommates. He said he hated the victims because they didn’t treat him as a friend.

In 2013, a Fudan student died of drinking from a poisoned water cooler. A fellow medical student who had trivial conflicts with the victim had purposely poisoned it. That same year, in Nanjing, a boy killed his roommate for disturbing him when playing his video game – showing how trivial matters can lead to extreme aggression.

Time for universities to step up?

Under the hashtag of ‘Sichuan Normal University Murder Case’ (#四川师范大学杀人案#), thousands of Weibo netizens have been discussing the murder on Lu. One netizen says: “Looking at this murder case, I’d like to raise again that some things about dorm life require attention. I hope people will start to understand this, so that problems can be dealt with in time.”

There are few alternatives for those unhappy with their dormitory life. Students who live close to their hometowns can move back to their parents’ place; but many students attend university in cities that are far from their family. Renting an own place is often difficult and expensive, especially in big cities. In some cases, students are lucky and can switch to another dorm. Psychological help for students suffering from the pressures of dorm life is often unavailable, and long-term stress can negatively influence study results.

Extensive exposure to irritation and low chances of changing the situation makes dormitory conflicts an important source of psychological stress amongst students. According to an article by a Chinese school psychologist, 45% of his 200 consultancies in 3 years concern problems in dorms. According to the article, the solution to China’s dorm problem is in the students’ hands: they have to divert their attention, put themselves in the shoes of their roommates, and clearly communicate with each other.

“How to avoid getting murdered in your dorm”

On Weibo, the recent murder case has seemed to raise more awareness on preserving the peace amongst dorm students. According to a Sina Weibo post on how to live a better dorm life, student’s suggestions are small and simple: make sure to be quiet when others are sleeping, use earphones when listening to music, clean up your things and do not use each other’s things without asking.

But sometimes seemingly simple solutions are easier said than done. Apart from encouraging students to solve their own dorm problems, it is time for universities to step up. Acknowledging that the downsides of dormitory life can lead to serious problems is a first step. Students need help and support in dealing with their dorm troubles. This kind of guidance would also allow school authorities to detect problems before they get out of hand.

China’s dormitory system is unlikely to undergo significant change in the coming years due to China’s population density and increasing university intake. But universities could lighten some pressure by showing more flexibility and giving students a chance to change into another dorm if their current situation shows no signs of improvement.

Although little research has been done on whether university dorm living conditions actually heighten the risk of conflict, the many shocking tragedies that China’s universities have seen over the past decade are a clear sign that the potential downsides of dorm life require more social attention. By now, the hashtag ‘how to avoid getting murdered in your dorm’ (#如何避免在宿舍被杀#) is gaining popualiriy on social media. However crude it may be, it might be a first step in opening the discussion on a safer and more pleasant dorm life.

– By Diandian Guo

Read more on crime in dormitories
http://www.china.org.cn/chinese/2013-04/22/content_28621559.htm
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yao_Jiaxin_murder_case

Read more on dormitory lives of Chinese university students
许传新,大学生宿舍人际关系质量研究,《当代青年研究》2004(4): 6-9
曹加平,大学生宿舍人际冲突原因与对策分析,《江苏大学学报·高教研究版》2006, 28(2):27-30

Featured images: (left) the murder scene – study room in a dormitory building, blocked after the crime. Pictures from The Paper (澎湃新闻). (right) ordinary dorm room in Chinese university.

Additional editing by Manya Koetse
©2016 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Diandian Guo is a China-born Master student of transdisciplinary and global society, politics & culture at the University of Groningen with a special interest for new media in China. She has a BA in International Relations from Beijing Foreign Language University, and is specialized in China's cultural memory.

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Rob

    April 23, 2016 at 1:57 am

    One of the issues that keeps students from going for help is the fear that they will be black-listed in some fashion by admin. I know that my students would not go to the counselling department or department heads because (a) they were made to feel that they were being a burden, (b) they feared getting in trouble, and (c) there was no real privacy. The minute a student spoke with the fudaoyuan at our school, their details were disseminated throughout the department to every teacher, and the standard response was to simply walk on eggshells around the students and go easy on them so they wouldn’t commit suicide. There really is no impetus from the school to actually treat the issue; they simply want to avoid any collapse until such time as the students are no longer their responsibility.

    There comes a time when the schools have to take responsibility and actually deal with the issues they help to create rather than avoid them or pretend they are not there.

    • Diandian GUO

      April 24, 2016 at 7:11 pm

      Hi Rob! When a university student, I experienced the exact thing you described. Teachers in my department were reluctant to tackle a dormitory problem where one boy seemed to be disturbed, unstable and had intentions to hurt. In the end the boy was detained to a lower year, but he still had problems with his new room mates.
      I was wondering if you have seen more cases of dormitory problems? Do you think these problems should have attracted more attention? Can bad dormitory life affect university life in general? From you words, I think you are a teacher. Do you have any thoughts on how things could be improved?

      • Rob

        April 27, 2016 at 1:10 am

        Hi DianDian,

        Yes, I have worked as a teacher at a Uni in Beijing. I’ve had talks with my students who have had issues with roommates – one looked to transfer her major just to get away from her roommates; another student has indicated that one of her roommates has an issue with everyone in the dorm, so they avoid her as much as possible. It’s a challenge, absolutely, and it definitely goes unreported – as someone who is Chinese, you probably understand the cultural focus on harmony and unity and NOT rocking the boat, which also compounds the issue. The Uni I taught at even had a murder-suicide at one point (but this was attributed to the female roommates being lesbians, though I have my doubts).

        Among the males, there are different issues, but they still have issues (especially among the students who are gay).

        I can guarantee that an unstable living environment will definitely impact students negatively, both in terms of their studies and social interactions but also in terms of stress and depression.

        As for how things can be improved – when I lived in York, we shared a living area but had private rooms, which would be a nice design for the dorm rooms, but of course, with large populations this becomes a challenge. What might be worth trying is to limit dorms to four people, and then cycle roommate groupings each year. This may increase student socializing and give them greater access to forming networks. As well, an induction teaching them to be sensitive to each others needs might be a good requirement – have students sign a contract regarding mutually respecting each other and then submit it to the fudaoyuan; if something comes up, then students can approach the fudaoyuan who can resolve the issues based on the contract/roommate agreement.

        Those are just thoughts off the top of my head.

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China and Covid19

Fangcang Forever: China’s Temporary Covid19 Makeshift Hospitals To Become Permanent

China’s temporary ‘Fangcang’ shelter hospitals are here to stay.

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A new term has been added to China’s pandemic lexicon today: Permanent Fangcang Hospital. Although China’s ‘Fangcang’ shelter hospitals are, by definition, temporary, these healthcare facilities to isolate and treat Covid patients are now becoming a permanent feature of China’s Zero-Covid approach.

Over the past few days, Chinese authorities have emphasized the need for China’s bigger cities to build or renovate existing makeshift Covid hospitals, and turn them into permanent sites.

So-called ‘Fangcang hospitals’ (方舱医院, square cabin hospitals) are large, temporary makeshift shelter hospitals to isolate and treat Covid-19 patients. Fangcang shelter hospitals were first established in China during the Wuhan outbreak as a countermeasure to stop the spread of the virus.

January 5 2022, a Fangcang or Isolation Point with over 1000 separate isolations rooms is constructed in Baqiao District of Xi’an (Image via Renmin Shijue).

They have since become an important part of China’s management of the pandemic and the country’s Zero-Covid policy as a place to isolate and treat people who have tested positive for Covid-19, both asymptomatic and mild-to-moderate symptomatic cases. In this way, the Fangcang hospitals alleviate the pressure on (designated) hospitals, so that they have more beds for patients with serious or severe symptoms.

On May 5th, Chinese state media reported about an important top leadership meeting regarding China’s Covid-19 situation. In this meeting, the Politburo Standing Committee stressed that China would “unswervingly adhere to the general Zero-Covid policy” and that victory over the virus would come with persistence. At the meeting, chaired by Xi Jinping, the seven-member Politburo Standing Committee also declared that China would fight against any words or acts that “distort, doubt, or deny” the country’s dynamic Zero-Covid policy.

Life inside one of Shanghai’s Fangcang, photo via UDN.com.

Following the meeting, there have been multiple official reports and statements that provide a peek into China’s ‘zero Covid’ future.

On May 13, China’s National Health Commission called on all provinces to build or renovate city-level Fangcang hospitals, and to make sure they are equipped with electricity, ventilation systems, medical appliances, toilets, and washing facilities (Weibo hashtag ##以地级市为单位建设或者改造方舱医院#).

On May 16, the term ‘Permanent Fangcang Hospital’ (Weibo hashtag #永久性方舱医院) became a trending topic on Weibo after Ma Xiaowei (马晓伟), Minister of China’s National Health Commission, introduced the term in Qiushi (求是), the leading official theoretical journal of the Chinese Communist Party.

The term is new and is somewhat contradictory as a concept, since ‘Fangcang hospitals’ are actually defined by their temporary nature.

Ma Xiaowei stressed the need for Chinese bigger cities to be ready for the next stage of China’s Covid control. This also includes the need for some central ‘Fangcang’ makeshift hospitals to become permanent ones.

In order to ‘normalize’ the control and monitoring that comes with living in Zero-Covid society, Chinese provincial capitals and bigger cities (more than ten million inhabitants) should do more to improve Covid testing capacities and procedures. Ma proposes that there should be nucleic acid sample collection points across the city within a 15-minute walking distance radius, and testing frequency should be increased to maximize efficient control and prevention.

Cities should be prepared to take in patients for isolation and/or treatment at designated hospitals, centralized isolation sites, and the permanent Fangcang hospitals. The recent Covid outbreak in Shanghai showed that local authorities were unprepared to deal with the outbreak, and sites that were used as Fangcang hospitals often lacked proper facilities, leading to chaotic scenes.

A Fangcang Isolation Center in Quanzhou, March 2022, via People’s Daily.

The hashtag “Permanent Fangcang Hospitals” received over 140 million views on Weibo on Monday.

One of the Weibo threads by state media reporting on the Permanent Fangcang hospitals and the publication by Ma Xiaowei received nearly 2000 comments, yet the comment section only displayed three comments praising the newly announced measures, leaving out the other 1987 comments.

Elsewhere on Weibo, people shared their views on the Permanent Fangcang Hospitals, and most were not very positive – most commenters shared their worries about China’s Covid situation about the stringent measures being a never-ending story.

“We’re normalizing nucleic acid test, we’re introducing permanent fangcang hospitals, [but] why isn’t the third Covid vaccination coming through?” one person wondered.

“If there was still a little bit of passion inside me, it was just killed by reading these words ‘Permanent Fangcang Hospital,'” another commenter writes, with one Weibo user adding: “I feel desperate hearing the words ‘Permanent Fangcang Hospital.'”

“Building permanent Fangcang? Why? Why don’t you use the resources you’re now spending on normalizing testing to create more hospital beds, more medical staff and more medications?”

Another commenter wrote: “China itself is one giant permanent Fangcang hospital.”

“The forever Fangcang are being built,” one Weibo user from Guangdong writes: “This will never end. We’ll be locked up like birds in a cage for our entire life.”

For more articles on the Covid-19 topics on Chinese social media, check here.

By Manya Koetse, with contributions by Miranda Barnes

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Featured image via user tongtong [nickname] Weibo.com.

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China and Covid19

‘Hard Isolation’ is Shanghai’s New Word of the Day

In line with a new ‘hard isolation’ measure, the entrances of some Shanghai residential buildings were fenced up.

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While some Shanghai households have already endured weeks of isolation, a new word was added to their epidemic vocabulary today: ‘hard isolation’ or ‘strong quarantine’ (yìng gélí 硬隔离)

The word popped up on Chinese social media on April 23rd after some Shanghai netizens posted photos of fences being set up around their community building to keep residents from walking out.

“New word: hard isolation. Shanghai is rotten to the core,” one commenter wrote.

The word soon turned into a hashtag page where people started commenting on the issue of fences being placed around residential buildings, voicing concerns on what a fence around buildings would mean for fire safety, especially after online rumors suggested that there had been a fire at one community in Pudong on Saturday night.

An official document regarding the ‘hard isolation’ measure was also shared online on Saturday. It is dated April 23, 2022, and its source is the Pudong New Area Office for Epidemic Control.

The document states that in line with the guidelines for the city’s epidemic prevention and control, the division between areas or zones that are in certain risk categories should be ‘optimized,’ with those in the high-risk category requiring a ‘hard isolation.’ Security guards should also be on duty 24 hours a day at the entrance of the buildings.

Earlier this month, Shanghai adopted “3-level control measures” after its initial phased lockdown. It means that local areas will be classified as “locked-down,” “controlled” or “precautionary,” based on their Covid19 risk.

“Could we also put fences around the homes of Shanghai leaders?”, one person suggested, while others posted images from the Walking Dead to mock the situation.

In the hope of Shanghai soon tackling the Covid situation, not everybody disagreed with the decision to fence some buildings or communities in the Pudong area: “I don’t disagree with it, as long as there is always someone there to open the fence in case of fire,” one person stated.

Although having a fence around their building is currently not a reality for most in Shanghai, the online photos of some communities seeing their buildings being fenced up is a reason to worry for some: “It’s been 40 days, and now they start hard isolation? This actually scares me. Before we know it, it’s June.”

One Weibo user asked: “Why is it possible to implement this hard isolation now? Was this created by the same persons who also implemented the rule to separate children from parents at isolation sites?”

“I truly can’t imagine why some people thought this is a good idea,” others wrote.

For more articles on the Covid-19 topics on Chinese social media, check here.

By Manya Koetse

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Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2022 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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