China: Two tales of a boy's death

On July 16, well-known and outspoken political commentary writer Liao Zusheng's (廖祖笙) son Liao Mengjun (廖梦君) is surreptitiously called from summer vacation back to his school to pick up his junior high graduation certificate and, according to one account, within minutes after arriving is found dead on the pavement next to the school wall. An early local newspaper reported the boy had jumped to his death from the sixth floor after being caught rifling through a teacher's desk.

Immediately suspecting foul play, Zusheng turned to his already well-read blog—with readership jumping to forty thousand overnight—with a series of posts claiming a history of abuse and blackmail during his son's time at the school. Although police later admitted the boy's fingerprints could not be found near or in the desk, they did allegedly find a message written on the classroom floor by the boy in his own blood naming one of the senior school administrators: “Murderer xx Chen, I hate you to death.” [zh]

Despite alleged injuries, details and eyewitness accounts suggesting otherwise and after refusing all requests to make public the coroner's report, the police report listed the cause of death as suicide, and named Zusheng, who refused to sign it, as a suspect. Did hired thugs throw sixteen-year old Mengjun down from the sixth floor of the school? Or did the son jump himself after being caught sneaking through a teacher's desk? Will the truth ever be known? The two opposing stories may be all that the public ever have to go by as on the following day all regional media were ordered not to report on the incident.


Writer Liao Zusheng's Son Has Been Murdered!!!


I am already unable to write any more. It is only with great pain and sorrow that I tell everyone that on July 16, 2006, writer Liao Zusheng's son was murdered on his campus!!!


At 4:11 pm that afternoon, my son's class director Tan Guannan, politics teacher at Huang Qi middle school in Nanhai district of Guangdong province's Foshan city, had one student use a pay phone on the street to call my home and have my son come to the school to pick up his graduation certificate. After my child left I never heard from him again. At twelve that night, both me and my wife rushed to the police station to file a missing person's report. The officer on duty told us that earlier that evening they had received a call from my child's school. After they rushed to the scene, they saw a body lying on the ground beside a wall inside the school. Their description of the deceased matched that of my son perfectly, and told us that there was a teacher also brought to the hospital. By the time the officer went to drive us home from the police station it was already four o'clock in the morning, and my son's class director Tan Guannan remained in the station for further questioning. The officer told us that there were still a few more people yet to be brought in and told us to be at the morque on the afternoon of the 17th to identify the body.

Prior that the above, Zunsheng had since added a foreword, responding to those readers of his casting strong doubts on his story:




I'm taken aback that after something tragic like this happens, there are still people ‘throwing stones at me’ after a post like this. In response to these punks, I won't even erase one single comment. Let people see clearly these peoples’ hoodlum side! What kind of person is it that would ‘throw stones’ here? I think most people know. No matter how cleverly they slander me, they won't change the fact that my son has already been murdered within his own school. In fighting for equal education, I've already paid for it with blood. And what have these hooligans done? An extremely cruel slaughter!

If you ask me how I can still feel like writing with such a big thing having happened at home, the reason is very simple. Because my home phone hasn't stopped ringing with calls from editors and reporters everywhere wanting to understand the situation, and friends phoning to express their deep sympathy and consolation. And in my home there is also my eighty-year old mother. Before she was taken back to the country home, I had to hide from her my son's sad news. I'm hiding it now and will hide it in the future, right until the day she passes away. I'll just say her cute grandson has gone to summer camp and that he'll be back after not too long. Although she's hard of hearing, I still can't talk about my son's tragic death on the phone when people call. Explained like this, will it shut you thugs up?

Liao Zusheng

That's how much of a farce this all is, and I don't plan on letting you get away with it. As long as there's still breath in my body, as long as Chinese’ conscience still hasn't perished, I absolutely will not allow my son's blood to have been spilt in vain. You just wait until the sword of justice lands on top of your heads! The killers want to get away with it? Do people still get off so easily in this world?

Continuing in a later post, in lieu of the coroner's report which had been denied him, Zunsheng offers a description of his son's body:


I haven't slept for a second since the 16th and haven't eaten anything either. In order for my tragically-dead and beloved son to rest in peace, I can only keep going by telling all that I saw today, as well as this tragic case's causes and results. Although my judgement is not the same as the police department's final verdict, after suffering and painfully identifying my beloved son's body at the morgue today, not only am I certain that this was a deliberate murder, but also sure that they used extremely cruel means in murdering my only son!!! Because we were told we weren't allowed to touch or move the body, my wife and I could only see this of our son's cruel death:


Head: The hair was completely caked in dried blood. Because we could not touch him, we couldn't see where on top of the head the injury was. The seven head orifices had all bled, blood that had since dried and hardened. Teeth had been knocked out. The whole face was covered in dried blood. The right forehead had caved in, and the right side of the face had clear signs of having been cut by a sharp instrument. On the face were also bruises, clear signs that he had been struck. On the right side of the jaw was a bloody hole.


Neck: On the throat were bruises clearly in the shape of a hand.


Chest: The entire front of the chest was covered in scars, not a piece of flesh left to be found. Because we couldn't touch him, we had no way of confirming which ribs had been broken. The left side of the ribcage had been punctured by a sharp instrument.


Arms: The upper left and upper right arms had both been broken. There were clear signs the bones had been violently dislocated, and the skin and tissue showed signs of swelling. The entire left arm had three knife stab wounds, all of varying depth.


Legs: Beneath the right knee a chunk of flesh the size of a chicken egg had been gouged out, the wound bloody but deep enough to see bone. On the right leg was a large bruise, clear signs the bones had been broken. The left thigh and right calf both had knife stab wounds.


Back: Because we were not allowed to move the body, there was no way to examine wounds to the back. Beneath my son's body there was a pool of blood deep enough to submerge half a hand.

Liao Mengjun


These are the basic circumstances seen by my wife and I at the morgue. The same day, many Foshan and Guangzhou media had already begun looking to do interviews in following up this story, but because they were told they could not enter the morgue, they did not accompany us to the viewing.


It can be seen in the details above just how cruel a chase to his death it had been. As described to journalists in interviews of a group near Huang Qi middle school in Nanhai district of Guangdong province's Foshan city, at the time the incident took place, seven or eight adult men carrying iron rods and wooden sticks chased one youngster from the sports field up the stairs to the teaching area and beat him. Before long, someone saw a youngster either fall or be pushed from a window on the fifth floor.



From an analysis of the timing, I estimate that within ten minutes of my son's entering the school grounds, the entire trap and kill process had been carried out, according to the following details:

At 4:11 pm on the afternoon of the 16th, my wife suddenly received a phone call from one student (later determined to have been from a public phone), saying my son's class director Tan Guannan wanted him to come to the school to pick up his graduation certificate, and then my wife went downstairs to find my son in the garden, the two of them changed clothes, went first to a nearby market to buy some things, and then she took him to the school. Given that over the last few months my son's teachers had struck my son many times and that school officials had created several obstacles to prevent my son from sitting his senior high school entrance exam, my wife didn't want to meet any of the school's teachers again, so after he got out of the car, the two of them agreed to meet at a book shop near the school and my wife went to the bookstore to buy some books. Then my son walked towards the school. All of this need to have taken at least forty minutes. And afterwards, the duty officer told us that around 5:10, Huang Qi middle school called the police and said “we've noticed a thief here at the school.” When the police arrived, a body was already lying on the concrete next to the school wall.

At this point, Zusheng expands more on the history of conflict between him and his son's educators:



This tragic case absolutely did not happen by accident; my family has had several run-ins with the school.

After this school implemented the national mandatory education “one fee system”, they still often arbitrarily collected fees, and high ones at that. If your hukou hasn't been registered locally, the school charges nearly for three school years, or half that at nearly a thousand yuan per semester. After my son finished junior two [age 14], I could no longer tolerate these kinds of fees and wrote a very strongly-worded letter to the principal refusing to be exploited again, and told the school officials that if because of this they refused to allow my son to continue his schooling, I would expose this to the media and file a lawsuit. Later the school officials called me to the school and agreed to treat my son's tuition as ‘special matter, special handling’. That was run-in one.


All along my son had been praised by his teachers, every hear bringing home a stack of certificates and awards. But starting in junior three when his politics teacher Tan Guannan took the position of his class director, Tan became the nail in his eyes, a thorn in his flesh, frequently receiving his beatings. Just two days before the senior high entrance examination, in response to the trivial matter of son borrowing a classmate's eraser, Tan Guannan had all sixty students in the class use their hands to pinch my son's neck and smack his ribs. Following this there was one day when Tan wouldn't let my son enter the classroom, and made him spend the entire day in the teachers office stand facing the wall. After this happen I was outraged, and threatened to sue Tan Guannan. The same night he rushed to our home to apologize to me. Because I was too hotheaded at the time, I refused to allow him to enter my home. The school has one Director Liang, who twice threatened my son saying he wanted to “punch him.” This was run-in two.


In April this year, the school officials suddenly wanted my family to produce the original copy of our property ownership certificate or else they wouldn't let my child sit the senior high entrance exam, and in addition wanted him to re-register at the school as a ‘transfer student’, which would see him then having to pay a tuition of thirty thousand RMB [approx. USD 3,750]. In struggling to give my son an equal opportunity to receive education, I spent several months writing pieces declaring war on education fraud. These articles, aside from appearing in numerous media, can also be found on my blog. Perhaps the school officials received some pressure, because they often sought ways to cause my child to suffer. At its peak, one day three teachers sought my son for a chat, and chatted for over three hours, wanting him to fill out his senior high school selection form as a ‘transfer student’. Sometimes they held my son up so long that he'd miss lunch at the cafeteria, leaving him to have to buy bread at a shop to sate his hunger. Because of this, both my wife and I phoned his teachers many times to protest. This was run-in three.


Perhaps I fingered this school too freely in my numerous articles on education fraud, bringing pressure down on the school, making my son's former class director Tan Guannan appear very nervous. He came up with many stories of all the work he's done fighting on behalf of my son, asking me to sign my name, to help him shirk responsibility. Many of the instances he cited were untrue, in particular the first item in which he tried in a hostile manner to say we had deceived the school. Seeing this, I refused to sign. This was run-in four.

The holes Zunsheng perceives in the official version of events are many, and here are a few:


Later, I transferred my wife's hukou over, leaving the school officials unable to prevent my son from sitting the senior high entrance examination. I didn't think the problem had been resolved, and now someone's life has been lost.


Several suspicious points:


Why did Tan Guannan, when in the past having always ever only used his mobile phone or the office phone to contact my family, this time have a student use a public telephone to call my son to the school?


Why did other classmates of the same class receive their graduation certificates much earlier, and my son receive notice so late and during vacation to come to the school to pick it up? And why was the phone call made already well pass four in the afternoon?


Why when my son had already been dead for several hours, when we contacted Tan three times, did he conceal the situation?


Why did school officials, when they phoned the police, say they “noticed a thief,” when actually there were seven or eight adult men brandishing various lethal weapons who chased my son from the sports field up to the fifth floor where they beat him? My son, always praised by his teachers since he was young, a writer's son at last was tricked into coming to the school only to end up leaving this world, has been labelled by them as a “thief”?


……I can't write anymore. Even now that my family has been broken up, I still remain convinced that The Party, the government and the police will finally see to it that my beloved and tragically-dead son receives justice. If this kind of strange case can't be resolved quickly, then where is the justice, the light, the essence of the education system? God, I trust you'll forever be watching this land, and won't let a writer's only son be cruelly murdered in vain!

In this post dated July 21, still unable to provide an autopsy report or any other related documentation, Zusheng makes his private notes public:


July 17, 2006
This morning after phoning reporters at Southern Metropolis Daily, Guangzhou Daily, Foshan Daily, Zhujiang Times and Foshan Television and other media, they all hurried over. One reporter from Foshan received a phone call from an employee at Nanhai district xxxxxxx, telling the reporter to not report this incident for the moment, saying there needs to be a unified propaganda statement, that a “thief” had fallen to his death at the school. Not long after, that Foshan reporter told me that xxxxxxx had already phoned, calling for this media outlet's reporters to be recalled.


In the afternoon the police took my wife and I to the morgue to identify the body, and reporters hurried to the school to investigate the situation. At the identification, that tragic, unbearable-to-see corpse was definitely my son Liao Mengjun's remains! Coming out from the morgue, my wife and I hurried over to Huang Qi middle school to join the reporters, who told us that leader xxxxxx had again chatted with the reporters about the matter of “a unified propaganda statement.” Among them was a reporter who mentioned that concealing this incident was probably not the best solution, that nobody will believe you if you call Mr. Liao's son a “thief,” that it will only make things worse. The official then answered there would be no more need for “a unified propaganda statement.”


At the school gate, I furiously asked, “a living, breathing child dies like this in your schoolyard and you still plan on labelling a writer's child “thief”? How likely is that? Will anyone believe it? One leader x hurriedly said, “we never said he was a ‘thief'! Who said he was a ‘thief'? We already said that this information has been withdrawn, will not be made public anymore.”


This evening Guangzhou Daily and Southern Metropolis Daily and other media's reporters phoned me several times, urging me to supplement the details, saying the story was about to be printed. At this time I wrote down the details from the morgue.



I'd thought that today I would be able to see news of Mengjun's murder in many different media today. Who knew that on the internet as well as in the papers, there wouldn't be a word. After phoning up media workers at several papers, I found out that last night xxxxxxxxx had sent down a temporary order, saying this incident must not be reported until the case is solved.


A young boy with no criminal record whatsoever, who'd never stolen a penny from anyone, who died tragically in a schoolyard, as a result of “a unified propaganda statement” is now a “thief”, who killed someone after being noticed……this is simply a mockery of all Chinese’ judgement ability. As for this monstrous misfortune, when will it finally reach the light of day?!

Of the many discrepancies Zusheng sees in the official recount of the events compared to information he has gathered on his own, one of the major points of contention is that despite the repeated ill treatment his son allegedly received at school in the past, it was never at the hands of teacher Deng, who aside from being the owner of the books Mengjun reputedly tried to steal, according to Zusheng, was also stabbed seven times at some point.


If you say that a naive child, only because of being busted with some stolen books, suddenly has violent motivations, then “stuck out his left hand and grabbed teacher Deng by the neck, and with his right hand pulled out a fruit knife and madly stabbed teacher Deng,” well, if a so-called group of ‘teachers for the people’, these Jekyll and Hydes, frequently hit their students, then that someone would have motivation to kill would be all the more likely. Just go look on the internet, or better yet go and ask the students themselves. This school practices corporal punishment, and often makes things difficult for the students.


Especially since this school all along has wanted to see my son to pay an extra thirty thousand RMB just to continue his education. In the end not only did they not succeed, but when things got bad, they got angry all the easier. After taking his graduation diploma, my son wanted to go study at another school, never to set foot in or feel fear from this school again. This was their last chance to retaliate! Would framing a student in any other location been as convenient as here?


Teacher Deng was stabbed seven times? Then how did my son get stabbed far more times than that? How did his countless wounds come to be? If nobody was chasing him, how then did he suddenly fall down from the sixth floor? And it was a vertical fall. Wasn't he able to jump over the metre-high bannister?


The tragically-dead child already has no ability to explain or defend himself, so these teachers can say whatever they want. If some departments have several meetings and decide that what is created there and comes out shall be the so-called “facts”, then does that not suggest that our society could expand on this logic in the future: murders must be done quickly. Those whose mouths are forever shut become the thieves, the murderers, and whoever still lives is then the victim, the embodiment of justice?


Living in this kind of environment, I no longer have any sense of security. If this blog goes too long without being updated, then it's very likely that my wife and I have been hurt. If I am no longer here, my spirit will still be hoping for a mightier country, for its nationals to take better care of themselves.


Don't commit a bigger crime in covering up those that have already been commited. There are no advantages in this for our country and our people, only disadvantages!

On a post dated July 28, Zusheng demands that a police superindent take charge of his son's case, the progress with which he finds unacceptable. Here he lists some of the reasons why:


Police did not find Liao Mengjun's fingerprints in the area that had been rifled through
Police cannot confirm that Liao Mengjun was stealing
Liao Mengjun's letter in blood refers to the murderers and not to teacher Deng
The former street phone has now become a “residential phone”
The case details and autopsy report have all been completed, but they won't release them, won't even allow us a look
The graduation certificate and matriculation notice were not smashed; the cause of all this was just a few books?
Police maintain that Liao, Mengjun, beaten black and blue and with a stabbed abdomen, “committed suicide”
Regardless of whether I sign or not, this case will “melt away”

As questionable as official Chinese police reports can sometimes be, turning to the internet to tell his story without any documentation to back it up saw many sharp-fingered readers try and rip him a new one. One interesting point Zusheng mentions, also in his July 28 post, is that after his son's story drew more and more attention, several readers apparently using several different nicknames began to flood the discussion flow, ignoring the suspicions Zusheng raised based on his own observations and fixating on contradictory official details. Here we see one reader from the hugely-popular BBS, where the incident was also being discussed, propose a new theory:


Another hypothesis in the Liao case (and by no means an impossible one)

我的猜测:已经看过关于这个案子的N中分析,各有各的道理,说廖是小偷者有之,说邓是杀人者有之,说廖捅伤邓然后自杀者有之。 有对教育制度愤慨者,有对廖君死亡冷潮热讽者,而我在综观整个案子后,觉得有比较合理的推测是这样的:

My hypothesis: we've already seen x number of analyses of this case, all with their own reasoning. Some say Liao is a thief, some say Deng is the killer, some say after Liao stabbed Deng he jumped to his death. Some express their indignation towards the education system, and some mock Liao's death. But after having read through the whole case, I think a rather reasonable speculation is as such:

以上推测可以解释很多问题。刀既不是廖的,也非邓姓老师的。 也能解释为什么邓老师在三楼,而廖同学在六楼坠楼。 更能解释廖及邓身上都有刀伤的问题。

According to Liao senior, Liao junior and teacher Deng normally never have any conflicts. That's why I exclude the possibility that teacher Deng is the villain. The most likely is that some interest (whether that's the school itself or hired help remains unclear) was supposed to beat classmate Liao, and was noticed by teacher Deng who, moved by his conscience to act, was stabbed by those poor, evil murderers (at this time still on the third floor), who then chased classmate Liao up the stairs to the sixth floor. It's possible they never set out to kill him, but that they lost control of the situation and Liao was either thrown down (still not dead at this point), or out of desparation jumped down to his death. The above speculation can explain many problems. Like the knife, which was neither Liao's or teacher Deng's. It can also explain why teacher Deng was on the third floor when classmate Liao fell down from the sixth. But what it best explains is where Liao and Deng's stab wounds come from.


I of course wouldn't be so malicious as to assume that the killers have any connection with school authorities, but as things develop, and if the above speculation is true, then it's very possible that teacher Deng started off with brave intentions, but after regaining his head in the hospital, was forced to lie due to a certain kind of pressure or interested party. And from what I see, the police could be a little more fair in their handling of the case (of course I am not saying here and now that it is not fair at this point, this is only speculation), but because writer Liao has cast himself in opposition to the education system, what was once a simple matter has now become quite complicated.

行凶者是拖某位老师的请求,教训一下廖吗? 不确定,有可能!
行凶者是拖某位学校领导的请求,教训一下廖吗? 不确定,也有可能!

Did some teacher hire the killers to teach Liao a lesson? Uncertain, but possible!
Did some school leader hire the killers to teach Liao a lesson? Uncertain, but possible!
But as far as I'm concerned, the killing could not have been carried out by a teacher. Most implausible is that teacher Deng did it!


Is it possible classmate Liao committed suicide? One cannot say this is completely impossible, but I feel the likelihood is extremely low. If nobody was chasing him, the likelihood that he would run up to the sixth floor and jump down, realistically, is too low. Looking through this case, every sort of possibility exists, because no matter how clearly every detail in the entire affair is explained, we don't know why an announcement still hasn't been made, that's why it's hard to form an opinion. Of the judgements and analyses based what we know so far, the most reasonable explanation is most likely the one I've mentioned above: that there were other killers, that Liao and Deng were the victims, and that Deng, due to some reason or another, will possibly never tell the truth. That's just my opinion, welcome all netfriends to give theirs!

While Zusheng hasn't posted for three days now, his longest period of silence since he began, he does appear to be preparing for a long fight to find the truth of the matter:


Liao Zusheng is in dire need of assistance


Even under these circumstances, there are still some things I best not say, cannot say.
I'm very close to falling apart, but I won't collapse just like that. I know clearly that there's more to this problem than my son's tragic death, but that this also touches on my son's learning environment, public safety, civil rights and interests, etc. Although my life has already been destroyed, and I would like to collapse, first I must see that the spirit has been laid to rest.
This is not a fight against the wind, but it's extremely likely that it will be a time-consuming “discussion”. All I know is that I need support:
If you are an honest witness or have inside knowledge, please do not bury your consciences, and contact me!
If you are an experienced, hard-fighting lawyer, please contact me! Ideally I will need a lawyer in Beijing and one in Guangzhou.
If you see an unfair situation and are willing to help, please provide me with some financial assistance!


我的电话:0757-85902681 13528908198
我的卡号:4518 1075 9445 3276 工行牡丹卡:廖祖笙

I hope that all good and upright people will reach out with both arms and help me. I tearfully thank you!
My telephone numbers: 0757-85902681 13528908198
My e-mail addresses:
My bank card number: 4518 1075 9445 3276 Industrial and Commerce Bank of China, Peony Card: Liao Zusheng
My blog:


  • Loafer

    It is shocking that the PSB and propaganda dept have put a gag order on regional journalists. Instead, the regional newspapers are ordered to publish the same rubbish that accused the son of having committed a crime and then killing himself, without any solid evidence.

    There’s still light though. Apparently from the author’s blog, other journalists have published articles on national newspapers harshly criticizing the gag order. As long as the media are not 100% silenced, there’s hope that the truth will come out someday.

  • Thanks for publishing the story to get the information out. No words are satisfactory otherwise than to try to convey how angry and sad it makes me.

  • SpiderGirl

    Sina, the No.1 website in china ( as I know), is removing replies to Mr. Liao’s blog without any explanation.

    How so ridiculous for a country like china to talk of democracy and legislation and human right when its people can even hardly talk over a murder on the internet.

  • Very interesting, thanks for the heads up, SpiderGirl. I haven’t been following this story so closely lately, and the only place I’ve seen it mentioned since was on Sina blogger Han Han’s (韩寒) blog here:, and fortunately still seem to be no shortage of comments there.

  • […] Next he goes to Foshan in southern Guangdong province to investigate the Liao Zusheng case. As with the many of the other stories he investigates and blogs, Zola’s filmed an interview with the key figure in the matter; in this case, the dead boy’s father. It’s a clip just begging for someone to give it English subtitles. […]

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