A murder, two frustrated families, and an internet mob

Society & Culture

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“Sometimes when laws are not enacted, we need mob justice to carry out moral sanction on those who otherwise won’t feel any guilt, shame, or remorse for their wrongdoings. I don’t think denouncing Liu for her inhumane behavior can be considered cyber violence.”

“These self-righteous online mobs had no patience for the court’s decision and rushed to punish Liu by their own means. It is the existence of these people that places a hurdle for China’s transformation into a country that is strictly governed by law.”

From Weibo (in Chinese)

Around this time last year, Jiang Ge 江歌, a 24-year-old Chinese graduate student in Japan, was fatally stabbed, allegedly by her roommate’s ex-boyfriend, Chen Shifeng 陈世峰. The case was widely reported in China and caused wild speculation among the public.

The accused murderer, Chen, is scheduled to stand trial on December 11 in Tokyo, and the case has again ignited an intense debate on the Chinese internet — but this time, it centers on neither Jiang nor Chen, but Liu Xin 刘鑫, Jiang’s flatmate, who had a long, drama-loaded spat with the victim’s mother (top picture).

Liu had broken up with her abusive boyfriend, Chen, some time before the murder, which occurred on the night of October 3, 2016, in a Tokyo apartment where Jiang and Liu lived together. That evening, Jiang had called the police about a suspicious man, who appeared to be Chen, outside her apartment. Chen was supposedly there in search of Liu, but Jiang somehow became embroiled in a quarrel with Chen and was killed before police arrived. What triggered the stabbing remains unknown, and Liu was at home during the crime but apparently did nothing to stop it.

Accused murderer Chen Shifeng 陈世峰

Using the internet and media interviews, Jiang’s mother has been relentlessly seeking the truth about her only daughter’s death. Liu, however, vanished from public view, ignored requests from Jiang’s mother for more details about the murder, and was later found to be living an apparently carefree life based on posts (in Chinese) from her social media account. To avoid confrontation, Liu’s whole family blocked Jiang’s grieving mother on WeChat. A screenshot of an online conversation between Jiang’s and Liu’s mothers before they lost contact has circulated. It purports to show the latter saying the victim “was destined to die at a young age.”

Liu Xin 刘鑫

Liu and her family’s indifference toward Jiang’s death have attracted wide condemnation online, with many speculating that Liu was afraid of facing Jiang’s mother because she intentionally kept the apartment door closed and ignored Jiang’s cry for help in order to protect herself from the attack.

Under immense pressure from the public, Liu, 294 days after Jiang’s death, finally agreed to meet Jiang’s mother in August. The meeting was filmed by Beijing News. Liu sobbed and apologized but refused to take any responsibility for Jiang’s death. She said she tried to save Jiang when she heard sudden screaming outside the apartment, but she was not able to open the door. She also said she was a victim of online vigilantism.