A photo on a Chinese news website with the caption reading "Chinese student suspected for Virginia Tech massacre"
The massacre at the Virginia Tech that left 33 people died has been one of the most discussed incidents among Chinese Internet users in the past 24 hours. Besides hundreds of comments expressing shock over the rampage and condolence for the victims, a large portion of the discussion touched on the issue of gun control.
Many Chinese people related the incidents to the widespread private ownership of guns in the United States. “[The U.S.] Better have ban on guns,” one commentator said.
They then started to feel fortunate that carrying gun is strictly prohibited for the general public in China, and the majority of the comments supported the ban.
“It is good that China has strictly controlled guns since the beginning [of the People’s Republic],” one wrote. “If China lifted the ban on guns, perhaps the number of people killed in China in one day will be equal to that in the US in a year,” another commented.
“Everyone having gun is just like everyone having no gun,” still another comment reads. “I don’t want that one day I walk on the street and get shot just because I take a look at a person who broke up with somebody.”
Although the United States remains an ideal society with democracy, freedom and justice for many Chinese people, quite a few posters used the massacre to criticize human rights situation in the US, since individual’s personal freedom and safety were not well protected even on a university campus.
“It is not heaven there,” one comment reads.
Earlier, a huge sensation rose among Chinese media and the public regarding a false speculation that the shooter was a Chinese student.
The gossip started with an article written by Chicago Sun-Times columnist Michael Sneed, who wrote that a 25-year-old “Chinese national who arrived in the United States last year on a student visa” was being investigated for the shooting.
Before long, some Chinese newspapers in the United States and state-run China News Services picked up the story. Soon after, China’s major news websites such as sina.com and sohu.com also posted the story that a Chinese student was regarded as the suspect.
Information online even provided two specific names of the alleged killer, one with the surname Jiang, from Shanghai, and the other with the surname Guo, from Liaoning. Apparently the news, especially those in Chinese, had made it seem real that the shooter was from China.
Upon receiving such information, people in China started to post comments expressing feelings like “very sad” and “ashamed.” Some even tried to assess the reasons for such “extreme behaviors” of Chinese students studying abroad in the US, such as pressure to excel and the disparity between their high self-esteem and humble reality.
Still, many people kept hoping that the shooter was not Chinese and waited for almost a whole day for the final confirmation.
“We were all misled [by the news],” a poster web-named Mu Mu wrote in an online forum soon after Virginia Tech police confirmed the identify of the shooter as 23-year-old South Korean Cho Seung-Hui, who was a permanent resident in the U.S.
“[I am] Greatly relieved after hearing the news [confirming the shooter],” another one wrote.
The news on the website of China News Services, sina.com and sohu.com is now corrected. Some online comments based on the wrong speculation were also deleted.
Speculations on shooter being Chinese
Update (8:45pm, April 17):
The links to the Sun-Times column and the Times story have been updated to the corrected version regarding the identity of the shooter. But a Google News search by "Chinese, Virginia Tech shooting/massacre" can still reveal the original headlines.
Update (10:27am, April 18)
Here is the blog of Mr. Wayne Chiang, a Chinese American and student of Virginia Tech who was wrongly thought as the shooter not long after it was said that the shooter was an Asian.