The third fatal victim of Monday’s Boston Marathon bombing was a Chinese graduate student at Boston University. The Chinese Internet is lit up with thousands of virtual candles in remembrance of her, amid some controversy over her background.
The Chinese Students and Scholars of Boston University (BUCSSA) confirmed that the victim is the missing student they had been looking for. On Sina Weibo, China’s most popular micro-blogging service, @BUCSSA wrote: “Please sleep peacefully in heaven… Your friends said that you often can’t find the way. If you are lost, don’t worry, our heart is your home, we will always be with you. Let the dead rest in peace, and those who are alive, live strong. ”
The victim’s identity is not made public here due to her family’s wishes. In a Weibo account that many believe belonged to her, the last entry on April 15th was a picture of a bread and fruit salad entitled, “my wonderful breakfast! ”
More than 9,500 comments followed the entry, turning this Weibo page into an impromptu online memorial lit with thousands of virtual candles. Over 3,000 comments were added in one hour.
Phoenix News reported earlier today that the missing girl came from Shenyang, although that detail has since been removed, perhaps out of respect of the family’s wish to keep the victim’s identity private.
However, in that article’s comment section, instead of the thousands of “RIP” and little candle icons under the victim’s last post, a more vitriol online sentiment emerged, reflecting many Internet users’ suspicion that any Chinese student in the U.S. belongs to China’s upper-middle class and profited from corruption.
There, the hottest comment was one made by @Daqingyuqingsong, who wrote: “It’s your fate! Isn’t China safe? Why do you have to go to America? Rich people!” That comment received over 2,000 “likes.”
A screenshot with several negative comments on this topic has been widely circulated on social networking site Renren.com. These comments include, “Children of those powerful and rich, while attending fancy schools, are also facing fancy dangers” and, “apparently this is a corrupt politician’s child, going there to show off. You deserve it! This is what happens when you put all your eggs in one basket. Let’s take a look at her background.”
Such comment laced with apparent class resentment may continue to surface since the victim’s identity and family background has not been confirmed, and rumors may shape Chinese Internet users’ perception of the victim. Ultimately, these hateful comments are not directly targeted at the victim of this terrible tragedy, but only reflect the common resentment against income inequality and social disparity in China’s today.
Xu Wenguang (@许文广), a producer at China Central Television, wrote:
“Among the three fatal victims of the Boston bombing, one is confirmed as a Chinese citizen. She was watching the marathon with her classmates. Twelve years ago, 22 Chinese died in the Word Trade Center in the 9/11 attacks. There were three Chinese on the plane that ended up crashing into the Pentagon. Terrorism, no matter where it happens, always aims at innocent people like you and me. Nobody is a bystander when confronting such inhumane act of violence.”