China / Society

Netizens aid police to save woman and son from suicide

By AN BAIJIE (China Daily) Updated: 2012-12-12 00:43

A deputy police chief in North China has won praise for using Sina Weibo to help a mother who threatened to kill herself and her 5-year-old son.

The woman, Yang Juan, 36, wrote about her plans to commit suicide on the micro-blogging website on Monday night.

However, in what could be the first case in China of a tragedy prevented through crowdsourcing, Chen Li, deputy director of public security for Shaanxi province, asked netizens to identify the woman and sent an officer to her home.

Crowdsourcing is the practice of asking a large collection of individuals online to help collect information.

Yang, whose son has epilepsy, wrote at 10:03 pm: "Tonight is the last night that my baby and I will live in this world."

"I was really worried about Yang and her son when I saw the message," Chen said on Tuesday.

Yang went on to blame a hospital for her son's condition and said that her attempts to sue for damages had been rejected by the courts.

"My family cannot afford the medical bills. I feel hopeless," she wrote.

The post was forwarded more than 8,300 times. Many users urged her to not kill herself.

Chen, who has more than 3.38 million followers on Sina Weibo, wrote a note to Yang at around midnight.

"See, there are lots of people concerned about you. We will help you. Please reply," Chen's note read.

He received no response from Yang, but at about 2:30 am, after another 17 posts, he had the family's address in Xi'an, the provincial capital, and the cellphone number of the woman's older sister, Yang Ping, who accompanied a police officer to the scene.

"Thanks to the netizens' timely information, mother and son were saved," Chen wrote. "We'll help her to solve her problems."

According to Yang Ping, her sister was standing by an open window with her son in her arms when they arrived. Her computer was switched on and she was logged on to Sina Weibo.

"I hope that more warmhearted officials like Chen will care about my sister's plight," she said, adding that she had since called the deputy police chief to express her gratitude.

"If I were my sister, I would think about killing myself, too. I don't know whether my sister is strong enough to face life, even though she was saved this time," Yang Ping said.

It's not known whether Yang Juan will face punishment for the threats made against her son's life.

Chen said that he had ordered an investigation into the woman's dispute with the hospital.

Many Web users, including former Phoenix TV commentator Yang Jinlin, have praised Chen.

"Saving a person's life is a virtuous thing to do," Peng Chunfang, a teacher in Yangxin county, Hubei province, wrote on his micro blog. "Best wishes to the mother and son, and to Chen."

Ji Xuguang, a writer with more than 340,000 followers on Sina Weibo, said that the public should now focus on the hospital dispute.

"Chen just did what he should have done as deputy chief," Ji wrote. "It's his duty. The public shouldn't praise him."

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