In recent weeks, a pair of college poisonings have brought attention to the intense competition among undergraduates. A Fudan University medical student is now appealing the death sentence for poisoning his roommate as an “April Fool’s” prank following a grudge, while a sophomore at a Shandong university stands accused of poisoning a rival out of jealousy.
Here Sun Wei, a former Tsinghua University student suspected of poisoning classmate Zhu Ling, then using family connections to flee to the US, gives her take on the controversy.
“I consider myself to be a fairly regular woman, with a pretty normal life. I just happen to be living that life under a pseudonym in a foreign country. Apart from that, I’m really not that much different to anyone else.
“To be honest, I hardly ever think about all that hoo-ha back at college. I mean, who thinks about their university roommates everyday, right? Even if you attempt to kill someone once or twice with thallium, it’s just not something you think about all the time. Trust me, I know!
“So when I heard the other day about these recent poisonings, suddenly, it was like – whoosh! It all came back, like from an episode of The Wonder Years: the music, the Party, the whole lifestyle.
“Let’s face it: we were all young once. And when we’re young, we sometimes do foolish thing. Like skipping evening class or staying up after ‘lights out’ to watch a Korean soap opera or cheating on the college gaokao. It’s part of the process of growing up. You live and you learn, about all sorts of important things – adult responsibilities, correct dosages, whatever.
“And the way in which we learn is by making mistakes; by getting the measurements wrong; by looking the dean straight in the eye and saying, ‘Look, is this going to take long? My dad’s kind of a big deal.’
“All that business was nearly 20 years ago. That’s ancient history in Chinese terms! I mean, that Tiananmen stuff was like 25 years ago, and who remembers that? And I’m pretty much certain Zhu Ling [her victim] has moved on with her life – I mean, within whatever limited capacity she can move, given that she’s now wheelchair-bound. I mean, the woman is handicapped, so why can’t everyone leave her alone?
“Look, I admit it. We all dabbled with drugs a little in college. Me, Zhu Ling, everyone did. Who doesn’t? A sneaky beer, the occasional cigarette here and there, the odd drop or two of barely-detectable thallium. I know it’s not the cleverest thing in the world to do. But that’s what college is all about: experimenting.
“Would I do it again? Probably not. We all enjoy the odd ‘high’ now and again, but when the side-effects include vomiting, diarrhea, hair loss, nerve damage, organ failure and painful death, I’d argue to Zhu Ling that it’s just not worth it.
“In fact, if there’s anything at all we can learn from these sorry episodes, it’s study hard at school – and stay off the drugs. Especially thallium. That stuff is lethal.”