Last Tuesday, a 9-year-old boy was allegedly beaten to death by a 30-year-old man in a residential neighborhood in Changsha, Hunan province.
A preliminary investigation carried out by local police found that the adult male, surnamed Feng, assaulted the child shortly after they crossed paths in a residential building at about 1.30pm, China Daily reports.
Feng proceeded to chase the boy out of the building, attacking the child upon catching him. Police stated in an official report, cited by the Paper, that neighborhood surveillance footage revealed no one else was in the vicinity at the time of the attack. After approximately three minutes, multiple eyewitnesses began calling the police.
Video footage circulating online shows Feng, who weighs over 100 kilograms, straddling the boy as he lies motionless on his back in the middle of the street. In short video clips seemingly captured via mobile phone, Feng can be seen waving an object in the air while bystanders linger in the vicinity.
Local police said that Feng had recently moved into the neighborhood with his parents. His father arrived on the scene nearly 20 minutes after the attack began, and restrained Feng with the help of others. Police arrived shortly after to find the boy in critical condition. He was sent to the hospital but died later that afternoon.
Image via @成都商报/Weibo
Feng, who his parents claim was hospitalized for schizophrenia in 2010 back in neighboring Henan province, has been detained while the investigation continues.
The attack sparked a heated debate online, with netizens disturbed by the lack of intervention from bystanders, to the point where the reaction (or lack thereof) by eyewitnesses became more or less the focal point of the story. Beijing News reported that two construction workers approached Feng while he was on top of the boy, but the attacker threatened to kill himself to ward off the two men. Many in the vicinity at the time of the attack were said to be middle-aged and elderly folks who were under the impression it was a father-son dispute. As a result, few even bothered to intervene.
On November 9, the victim’s father posted a thank-you note on WeChat, expressing gratitude towards the family’s neighbors, his son’s classmates’ families and local authorities, among others, for their support during the family’s difficult time. The post also drew a mixed reaction from people online. “Thankful for what? It doesn’t make sense, your son is gone but you write a thank-you note. Are you thanking the government that this person with a mental illness was released from the hospital?” posted one Weibo user, a day after the thank-you note was published online. Another person wrote, “The misfortune already happened, and it’s indeed an accident, so an expression of thanks is understood. But it still should be asked: How to effectively manage and restrain those with mental illness so they don’t hurt people or destroy things?”
[Cover image: screengrab via @澎湃新闻/Weibo]