The body of a teenager who was sold by his birth parents as a baby and deserted by them again after a recent reunion was found on a beach in the southern Chinese island province of Hainan early Monday (Jan 24) morning.
Liu Xuezhou, 17, apparently committed suicide and left a lengthy note on Weibo, alarming people who had become concerned about his personal safety. Police in the city of Sanya launched a search for the boy after they were alerted by the public that he could be in danger.
Liu was found by people who had started a search after reading his social media posts. He was rushed to hospital, but doctors could not save his life.
The teenager had become the source of national attention in China after his initial story went viral online.
It all started earlier in January when he posted on the social media platforms Weibo and Douyin saying that his birth parents had decided to cut ties with him after they were reunited in December 2021 with help from the police.
Liu was sold by his biological parents at birth in 2005 but became an orphan at the age of four when his adoptive parents, two farmers from Hebei province in north China, died in a home explosion. Liu spent most of his life getting passed between relatives after the accident.
He was able to track down his birth parents last month after he launched an online search, but both his parents, who had since divorced and started new families, refused to accept him back into their lives.
In the past week, Liu had publicly argued with his parents. In his 10,000-word suicide letter, he said he had been "abandoned twice by his biological parents".
When Liu was first reunited with his parents, the family seemed happy initially, but they began to quarrel after Liu asked his parents for a separate place to live.
His father, Ding Shuangquan, and his mother, surnamed Zhang, told mainland media last week that Liu was trying to force them to buy him property, which they said they could not afford.
Liu said his biological parents did not allow him to live with them and refused to let him to visit their homes. He said he asked them to "either rent or buy a place for me because I have been homeless".
Zhang told Shangyou News that she cut off contact with Liu to return to her "peaceful life".
"Wouldn't you stay away if he were your child and was being so defensive that he even recorded your conversations? His father has remarried, and so have I. He tried to force us to buy him a home, but we are not well-off enough for that," she was quoted as saying.
Liu said the row with his birth parents triggered an avalanche of online abuse.
"There have been people attacking and cursing me on Douyin and Weibo in the past couple of days," he wrote in the suicide note. "I have been told to 'go to hell' and have been called various curse names, such as 'scheming son of a b****', 'disgusting' and 'sissy'."
Cyberbullying is a serious problem in China, and Liu said the online attacks had become unbearable.
Last Thursday, Liu said he would sue his parents for abandoning him twice.
He also said in the note he had been bullied and called a "deserted child" by his schoolmates in the past. Liu also claimed a male teacher had sexually abused him but had kept that a secret for most of his life.
A man surnamed Zhang, the head of the village committee of Beimeng, where Liu grew up, told the South China Morning Post that their community was aware of Liu's death and would support his adoptive family if they needed help.
- Samaritans of Singapore: 1800-221-4444
- Singapore Association for Mental Health: 1800-283-7019
- Care Corner Counselling Centre (Mandarin): 1800-353-5800
- Institute of Mental Health's Mental Health Helpline: 6389-2222
- Silver Ribbon: 6386-1928
This article was first published in South China Morning Post.