On June 20, a 19-year-old woman in western China jumped off a building, killing herself two years after she was sexually assaulted by her teacher.
Identified by her surname Li, the woman had been diagnosed with depression and had attempted suicide several times, her family told local media. Before she died, Li left behind a six-page handwritten letter asking for justice.
In September 2016, Li was attending high school in Qingyang, a city in Gansu Province. After she went to the school infirmary to recover from a stomachache, chemistry teacher Wu Yonghou followed her in. With the two of them alone, he forcibly kissed and bit her, then began to take off her clothes, but was interrupted when another teacher entered the room.
Apart from telling Wu to give Li an apology for his behavior, the school did not do anything about the incident. Li went to the police, but they didn’t offer her much help. The court ruled that Wu’s actions were “not severe” and placed him on 10 days detention without filing any criminal charges.
Wu claimed that he was only giving the girl a “physical check-up,” and the school allowed him to continue working as Li’s teacher.
Seeing that her case was being ignored, Li gave up pursuing a legal solution and fell into severe depression. She tried to take her life several times, on one occasion overdosing herself with sleeping pills. But each time she was rescued.
At around 3 pm on June 20, Li climbed out of a window ledge on the eighth floor of a department store in Qingyang. As hundreds of people gathered below, she hesitated for hours, while rescue workers tried to bring her to safety.
A video taken at the scene shows a fireman trying desperately to save Li while yelling: “Hold on! Hold on!”
“Thank you, but I’m going to leave now,” Li said, then let go and fell to her death.
Some onlookers hurled insults and egged the woman on in her final moments. One social media comment read: “You going to jump or not? What are you waiting there for? Aren’t you ashamed?” Another said: “I’ve been here in the sun for an hour already, hurry up and jump.”
A public post on WeChat, a popular Chinese social media platform, noted how a wide variety of factors worked together to drive Li to the edge and beyond — starting with the teacher’s attempt to rape her, to the callousness of the school and legal authorities in addressing her case, and finally the heartless attitude of those in the crowd who urged her to jump and live-streamed her death.
“It is the people who clapped who really made her kill herself. Even her last bit of spirit was crushed in those final moments,” said a Chinese comment translated by the site Whats On Weibo. “Girl, I hope you’re off to a better world, where people are not so cold and detached,” said another netizen.
According to local media, the teacher who molested Li has now been fired, and two people who encouraged her to jump have been detained. The fireman involved in the failed rescue attempt is in a state of trauma.