Three months ago, a 15-year-old student disappeared from a private school in Jiangxi. Because of the lack of action by the police, all sort of rumors are circulating.
by Lei Shihong
January 18, 2023
A Weibo image of Hu Xinyu.
Remember the chained mother of eight? It happened one year ago, on January 2022, and it generated the largest Internet protests in China in a decade (to be surpassed at the end of 2022 by the protests about the Urumqi fire, which extended from the web to the streets).
The CCP’s propaganda about a brave Party man raising eight children alone in Jiangsu province led inquiring netizens to investigate who the mother of eight was. Finally she was found, and a video showed her emaciated and chained. In a few days, the video had gathered more than ten million downloads. After contradictory answers and attempts to suppress the scandal, the CCP had to admit that the “chained mother of eight” had been one among many victims of human trafficking, and had been sold to an abusive husband. The “brave Party man” ended up being arrested, and several local CCP cadres lost their jobs.
In retrospect, the story of the “chained mother of eight” taught the CCP that web protests of this magnitude cannot be suppressed, which probably played a role in the subsequent decision to hear the protesters and withdraw the Zero COVID policy.
In the last three months, a new story that involves millions of social media users and is evolving into a major scandal has emerged.
Three months ago, on October 14 , 2022 , Hu Xinyu, a 15-year-old boy from Zhiyuan Middle School in Shangrao city, Jiangxi province, disappeared after having been last seen leaving the school’s dormitory. Zhiyuan is an expensive private boarding school that Hu, a brilliant student, was able to attend thanks to a scholarship.
Hu is not the first minor who disappeared, but the school is a prestigious one and his family made noise claiming that the police has been strangely unwilling to investigate and even register the case.
Surveillance camera image of Hu leaving the dorm. From Weibo.
The rumors snowballed on social media. Some of them, such that other students at Zhiyuan had disappeared or had even been killed, seem to be demonstrably false. On the other hand, after the case of the “chained mother of eight,” many netizens speculated that Hu had become himself a victim of human trafficking, and had been kidnapped to be forced into prostitution or worse. Some went so far to suggest that Hu may have become a victim of gangs kidnapping healthy young men and women for organ harvesting.
The CCP has been very active cancelling posts and suppressing discussions, but it has only itself to blame for the escalation of wild rumors. A police that gives the impression to be unwilling to investigate, and is unable to communicate with the citizens and reassure them, cannot but fuel the rumors. The CCP has now learned that social media scandals have a way of becoming uncontrollable. But it does not seem to be willing to amend its ways.