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Decades-old case returns to public eye

By Peng Yining, He Na and Zhang Yuchen  (China Daily)

13:34, May 08, 2013

Zhu Mingxin, 72, helps administer Zhu Ling's medicine. Zhu's elderly parents begin their busy 'work schedule' at 7 am every day. (China Daily)

Internet petition on unsolved crime causes unease, report Peng Yining, He Na and Zhang Yuchen in Beijing.

An unsolved case of poisoning nearly two decades old has hit the headlines again after a petition posted on the White House website named a suspect and called for her to be extradited to China.

The petition, which has collected more than 130,000 signatures in the "We the People" section of the site, alleged that 39-year-old Sun Wei was the perpetrator of the incident and even claimed she is living in the United States illegally because she gained entry to the country via a fraudulent marriage. The petition offered no evidence to back up the claims.

However, one comment - "The US government should deport Sun!" - was representative of the feverish mood of many petitioners.

The story began in 1994 when Zhu Ling, a 21-year-old student at Tsinghua University in Beijing, was poisoned with the heavy metal thallium. It is thought that her cup of water had been laced with the metal.

Although her life was saved, Zhu was left with serious neurological damage and permanent physical impairment.

Once a talented student with promising future, Zhu now is paralyzed and practically blind. A number of her internal organs are damaged beyond recovery, and as a result, she needs constant supervision and care.

Although no evidence has ever been presented publicly and no charges brought, online speculation suggested that Sun, one of Zhu's roommates, was behind the incident. More startlingly, there have been claims that she wasn't charged with the crime because a number of her relatives were powerful officials. Again, no evidence has been produced that this was the case.

Beijing police spent four years investigating the incident. Although Sun was questioned as part of the investigation, the police took no further action. It is not known whether Zhu's other roommates were also questioned at the time. By 1999, the police concluded that forensic evidence from the scene had deteriorated to the point where a conviction would be impossible.

Uneasy reactions

The White House petition quickly drew comments from Chinese citizens and expatriates, with many posting and reposting items on social media sites and online forums. However, the timing and tenor of the recent accusations against Sun have caused unease.

The daily routine in Zhu Ling's family

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