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A Shocking Murder Has Chinese Wondering If Education Does Enough for Students’ Mental Health

Wu Xieyu who is suspected of murdering his mother uploaded this image to his social network back in 2012 and invited others to pass on if they managed to see the hidden words "love u mom". Screen capture image.

Wu Xieyu who is suspected of murdering his mother uploaded this image to his social network back in 2012 and invited others to pass on if they managed to see the hidden words “love u mom”. Screen capture image.

A wanted poster for Wu Xieyu, a student at China's top university suspected of murdering his mother, has gone viral on social media in the last week.

Wu, an economics student from Peking University and an elite student who has earned top marks since middle school, vanished after his mother Xie Tianqin's body was found in her residence in Fuzhou, the capital of the eastern province of Fujian, on February 14. Xie, who was a secondary school teacher, lived in a teacher's dormitory.

The wanted poster said the victim's 22-year-old son was a prime suspect in her death and he “had fled for fear of being punished.”

Police's wanted notice of Wu Xieyu.

Police's wanted poster for Wu Xieyu.

The case has shocked Chinese society as family are at the core Chinese values. Some blamed China's exam-oriented education system for neglecting students’ mental health.

The details of the crime indicate that the murder was premeditated and included a sophisticated escape plan. Xie reportedly was murdered last July. According to Wu’s online payment records, he had bought knives, waterproof cloth and a doctors’ coat in June, then activated carbon and large plastic sheets in July.

Her body was found wrapped in plastic sheets with activated carbon tucked into them, apparently to lessen any odor. The door of the dormitory was sealed to prevent odor from leaking out and surveillance cameras allegedly linked to Wu's phone were installed inside the room.

Wu allegedly faked his mother's resignation letter and sent it to the school in August. Police said he then borrowed about one and a half million yuan (approximately 230,000 US dollars) from relatives by sending messages from his mother's smartphone saying that the family needed the money to move to the US.

Xie's body was found when a relative came to the dormitory to visit her.

Friends of Wu have described him as a positive, well-disciplined person who is always willing to help. A bright student who consistently performed well on tests, he once won a cash award for his extraordinary performance on the GRE, a US graduate university entry exam.

Wu Xieyu received a cash award for his high scores in GRE. Photo from Wu's social media network (Ren Ren)

Wu Xieyu received a cash award for his high scores on the GRE. Photo from Wu's social media network (Ren Ren)

According to police, Wu was in a relationship with a sex worker, with whom he had filmed a few sex videos. They said he had proposed to marry her and offered her more than 100,000 yuan as a pre-wedding bride price.

The case has drawn a huge amount of discussion online. The majority of commenters assume Wu is guilty. Some argue he was born evil, while others believe such a tragedy could have been prevented had the education system paid more attention to students’ all-round well-being, instead of just academic performance.

Below are a selection of comments from one of the news threads on popular Chinese social media platform Weibo:

母亲的教育非常成功,孩子考上中国最知名的学府,同时母亲教育又非常失败,败到丢了性命。对一个人的一生来说,心理健康比什么都重要,扭曲的人性和冷酷的行为令人啧舌,是什么让一个孩子痛恨母亲到了非杀死不可的程度。

The mother’s education of her child was very successful, given that he entered the most prestigious college, meanwhile the mother’s education failed terribly given that she lost life. Psychological health matters more than anything else for a person’s life. The public is shocked by the student’s distorted human nature and ruthless behavior. What made a child hate his mother so deeply that he must kill her?

高分教育的悲哀!现代教育只注重分数,竞争教育机制下的孩子越来越自私,没有爱心,没有善,不能忍辱,不懂得关爱生命,嫉妒,贪婪。毒死同学,杀害母亲……以后还会发生什么?!

How sad for the exam-oriented education! Within the existing education system, only focusing on scores has made students more and more selfish, lacking love and kindness. They don’t understand how to endure humiliation or navigate their love life, instead they become jealous and greedy. Poisoning classmates, killing mothers…what will happen in the future?

Wu Zhihong, a well-known psychologist, joined the conversation and explained how long-time repression of emotions could lead to mental problems:

弗洛伊德说,一个人如果不能象征性的、合理的表达自己的攻击性也即恨,那就会出现心理问题。一些哲人也说,要选择能表达愤怒的人做朋友。看似只能表现爱与好意的人,他们的恨与愤怒,就可能以更具破坏性的方式去表达。

Freud said a person would have psychological problem if he or she can’t express aggression, namely hate, symbolically and reasonably. Some philosophers also said it’s better to make friends with those who can express anger. Those who just express love and kindness will probably deliver their hate and anger in a more destructive form.

Like most commenters, Iris was just shocked:

吴谢宇还没抓到,高智商犯罪,弑母。天才和神经病一念之间。好怕人

Wu Xieyu is still on the run. High IQ criminal, matricide. The line between a genius and a psychopath is so thin. This is terrible.

  • lacompacida

    If he was the murderer, and if he did it because of his mother’s objection to his marrying a sex workers, he may not have a psychological problem at all.

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