Roommate held after Shanghai student dies from poisoning

Medical student had been in hospital for two weeks

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 17 April, 2013, 12:17pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 17 April, 2013, 2:51pm

A medical student from a top Chinese university in Shanghai died of poisoning on Tuesday, after undergoing intense medical care in hospital for two weeks.

The victim was identified as Huang Yang, 28, a postgraduate medical student at Fudan University, Beijing Times said. He had been in hospital since April 2 after experiencing fevers and continual vomiting.

The report said police on Saturday detained a suspect surnamed Lin, who was Huang's schoolmate and dormitory roommate. Earlier, a Fudan student told police that Lin had been conducting experiments on mice using a chemical compound that could inflict symptoms similar to those that Huang experienced.

This prompted police to launch an investigation. They later found that the water in a dispenser in Huang's dormitory contained toxic compounds.

Authorities have not said what chemical compound caused the victim’s death, but the Oriental Morning Post has reported it as N-Nitrosodimethylamine, a toxic substance mainly used for medical research and could inflict serious damage to the human liver. It is not clear whether Lin was experimenting with the same compound.

Huang's father recalled that his son had said the water in his dispenser had a bad taste on the same day he was sickened.

The Beijing Times report quoted a police official who was part of the investigation as saying the suspect’s motivation remained unknown.

The victim’s parents and the university have denied rumours circulating online that said the two students did not get along because they competed for a doctoral opportunity. The two students were not in same major and conducted research at different hospitals, they said.

Huang, from Sichuan, was born in a relatively poor family, according to state-owned CCTV. With his parents laid off, he has been paying his own college expenses and his mother’s surgery fees with scholarships and earnings from a part-time job.

Huang’s death on Tuesday has drawn wide sympathy across China’s cybersphere, and condemnation against the culprit.

Two microblog posts on Fudan University's official account have been reposted more than 270,000 times and drawn 90,000 comments.

Many internet users also recalled a similar, but unsolved, poisoning 19 years ago. A 21-year-old female student from an equally prestigious Tsinghua University was poisoned with thallium. She survived from the poisoning but suffered irreversible damages, and has remained unable to care for herself ever since.

Many internet users also questioned whether good education can lead to great merits.