Decades-old case returns to public eye

Updated: 2013-05-08 09:33

By Peng Yining, He Na and Zhang Yuchen (China Daily)

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A personal statement

Despite the time lag, online interest in Zhu's case has never quite abated. The issue was reignited by an unrelated incident at Shanghai's Fudan University, when a postgraduate student, Huang Yang, died in April after being poisoned with the highly toxic chemical N-Nitrosodimethylamine. One of Huang's roommates was subsequently charged with his murder.

On Tuesday, Yao Chen, a popular Chinese actress, posted a story to her 45 million followers on the micro-blogging website Sina Weibo claiming that Zhu's mother had declined an interview with the New York Times Chinese language website. The post has been forwarded more than 1,700 times and attracted more than 1,000 comments in the space of 30 minutes.

On Dec 30, 2005, 10 years after the incident, Sun posted a message titled "Sun Wei's statement: Refuting the rumor that I poisoned my roommate Zhu Ling" on the forum of one of China's biggest bulletin board sites, Tianya.

In the statement, Sun, who now lives in the US, denied any involvement in the case and said the adverse publicity and allegations have made her a victim too. She also complained that her name is still on the police department records with regard to the incident.

The post gained 1.5 million hits and many readers left comments. Sun didn't reply to each and every comment, but she did say she had never been in conflict with her former roommate and had no reason to harm her.

On April 18, Sun posted a second, much shorter statement, saying that she lived a lonely but contented life and cared little about either positive or negative public opinion. The post received more than 6 million hits and 225,000 comments.

"I understand why people are so angry about this case. Many think it confirms a widespread belief that officials are above the law," said Zheng Zaisuo, referring to the allegations of an official coverup. "But people need to be rational. What we need is a rigorous legal system and an objective investigation, not mob revenge against Sun."

Zheng said it is unfair and inappropriate to call Sun a poisoner or a criminal, because she has never been formally charged in connection with the case.

"Zhu and her family have surely suffered, and they deserve sympathy and support. But Sun's rights deserve respect as well," he said. "There are still a lot of questions about Zhu's case that have never been answered. We should ask for more information and further investigation of the case, but blame should not be apportioned before the case is solved."

Zhang Jie, Zhu's lawyer, said he applied to the police to publicly disclose their findings on the case, but the application was rejected. He said greater transparency is urgently needed.

Zheng said it's possible that the investigation could be resumed because the two-decade-old case has attracted so much recent attention.

"It is time for authorities to make an official statement on what will happen next. You can't cover anything up in the era of social media, so it's better to be forthright from the outset," he said.

"An independent committee, including legal experts, should supervise the investigation. Otherwise, people will never be convinced."

Chen Jia in San Francisco contributed to this story.

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