CHINA> Regional
'Suicide' epidemic has city reeling
By Zheng Caixiong (China Daily)
Updated: 2009-05-15 08:43

GUANGZHOU: Police in Guangdong's provincial capital have dealt with 15 cases of people threatening to kill themselves by jumping off the city's Haizhu Bridge so far this year.

Eight of those potential jumpers ended up being detained by police for up to 15 days each, according to sources with Guangzhou municipal bureau of public security yesterday.

Haizhu Bridge, which crosses the Pearl River linking the city's Yuexiu and Haizhu districts in the downtown area, is described as a macabre "tourist attraction" after appealing to so many suicidal people.

During a 41-day period between the beginning of April and May 11, a total of 11 people made their way to the bridge to threaten suicide.

Most would-be jumpers were from vulnerable groups, said an officer from the publicity department within Guangzhou municipal bureau of public security. The official said many had financial troubles, such as unpaid wages and some suffered from medical conditions and injuries from workplace accidents.

The spokesperson said the situation was causing chaos to residents, pointing out that the city sends a rescue vessel, an ambulance, several police cars and fire engines each time there is a "jumper".

The officer urged people to deal with the situation calmly while also lobbying the government for additional assistance. But, he said, those who threaten public security and disrupt social order will be punished according to law.

Many in the town have not been sympathetic to the would-be jumpers.

"The growing number of Haizhu Bridge suicide cases have affected the normal lives of local residents," said Zhang Wenxin, a white collar worker.

Zhu Lieyu, a deputy of Guangdong People's Congress, said the government should open channels so locals can demand help in reducing the apparent cries for help.

Zhu urged the government to take concrete and effective measures to stop people climbing onto the steel frame.

Wang Zechu, a Guangdong provincial government advisor, urged the authorities to narrow the gap between rich and poor.

The latest incident took place on Monday when a middle-aged man climbed onto the bridge and threatened to jump after saying he had been cheated out of 19,800 yuan ($2,898.98).

Police closed the bridge for more than an hour while the man was rescued. On May 8, a man diagnosed with cancer who could not afford his medical bills took similar action. Traffic was at a standstill for three hours as a result.