Chinese debt-ridden family hounded to death by online mob
Police find father and daughter dead after malicious phone calls and online abuse drive relatives into three-way suicide pact
Chinese internet users have been accused of hounding a family into forming a suicide pact, just weeks after social media helped save the debt-ridden relatives from exactly the same fate, according to a local media report.
Police in Yongzhou, central China’s Hunan province, said that the bodies of a 55-year-old man and his 28-year-old daughter were found in a car parked at a service station in a rural area of Lanshan county, Beijing Daily reported.
A 54-year-old woman – the wife and mother to the victims – survived the deadly pact, which involved all three family members swallowing a large amount of an unspecified medicine and slitting their wrists, police said in a statement.
The newspaper report said the relatives, none of whom were identified, were the same people that had been “saved” by police from a similar fate just last month.
The story began when the daughter posted a suicide note on social media saying she was ready to “go to another place” with her parents as the family had become overladen with debt after her father’s business failed.
Internet users were touched by the plea and contacted the police asking them to intervene, which they did. When officers arrived at the family home on May 21, they found the trio had injected themselves with potentially fatal drugs, but were in time to save their lives, the report said.
However, in the days and weeks that followed the dramatic rescue, some quarters of the internet began to suggest that the suicide plan had actually been a scam designed to raise funds so the family could pay off their debts.
They were also accused of wasting money on travel and luxury items, while publicly bemoaning their financial misfortunes.
As well as making online accusations, some people even began calling the family home to harass them, the report said.
An unidentified police officer from Lanshan was quoted as saying that after the initial intervention, the family had given up on the suicide idea. But faced with a constant bombardment of accusations over the telephone and on the internet, their moods blackened once more.
The officer said that the family became so afraid of being abused that they refused even to answer calls from the police.
The daughter had always vehemently denied being involved in any kind of scam to cheat people out of their money, the report said.
A commentary on the legal social media platform Chang An Sword, said the “irresponsible comments” made by internet users in search of what they believed to be the “truth” had pushed the family over the edge.
The incident was not evidence of justice being served, but of a lynching, it said.