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Boston Bombing Sparks Transparency Debate In China

Lu Lingzi's death in Boston reopened the battles over media transparency, the one-child policy, and China's vast community of bereaved parents.

Posted on April 22, 2013, at 3:08 p.m. ET

The murder of a Chinese exchange student in last week's Boston terror attack has drawn an unexpected sort of attention in China, where the American handling of the incident is being contrasted favorably with the Chinese handling of similar tragedies.

"Three hours after Boston bombings: all cameras rolling, no bans on content . . . It spares us the suspicious speculation," a Chinese user praising Boston's media wrote in one widely reblogged message on Weibo. "All worth learning from."

And particular contrast came as Saturday's Sichuan earthquake reminded many of how grieving parents were jailed for demanding investigations on collapsed schools in 2008's quake (a subject of many Ai Weiwei interviews and YouTube documentaries). Since even before the violent quashing of Tiananmen, the murky handling of student deaths has always touched a raw nerve in Chinese national sentiment.

In one celebrated case this month, a Fudan University student was poisoned by his roommate. But neither his parents nor the public were given much information until after his death.

Recent high-profile Chinese student deaths include Huang Xinhai (left), Lu Lingzi, and Huang Yang.


In a move that drew widespread admiration in China, Boston University set up a memorial scholarship in Lu Lingzi's name, with seven faculty members donating a total of $560,000. Lu's parents (who released a moving letter online) will be guiding the scholarships.

Across Weibo, this drew demands for similar transparency and institutional compassion for China's recent student casualties: a new college grad killed while reporting a story in Urumqi; a Nanjing Aviation Academy trainee stabbed to death; Huang Yang's poisoning by his own roommate; a USC student killed as a passenger to a careless driver; and now the countless dead and missing from Saturday's earthquake in Sichuan.


White cranes memorializing Huang Yang outside of Fudan University.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.