Suicides in Hangzhou

Tiffany Ng

There are too many taking their own lives because of small reasons that have a simple solution. To change this, I ask the question: What are the components that affect suicidal rates in Hangzhou? to raise awareness and find potential solutions to solving this tragic problem.

To investigate and understand the true severity of Hangzhou's suicidal rate, we must first investigate what kind of city Hangzhou is, then we must investigate the reasons why. Through this website there are a series of reasons supported by evidence and statistics explaining why.

Bold = Important terminology and significant ideas

Italics = Quantitative and qualitative data

Normal = Personal input and critical observations

What kind of place is Hangzhou?

Previously known as Hang Chow, Hangzhou is now known to be one of the most renowned and prosperous cities in China given its beautiful natural scenery. Hangzhou is the capital and largest city of Zhejiang Province in Eastern China. It is a fairly modern and wealthy city with a somewhat dense population. It is a prime example of a EMDC, and a city that has undergone extreme urbanization. Moving away from the common industrialisation of China as a whole, Hangzhou is developing and heading towards more of an independent business path.

Hangzhou’s economy

It is a city of rapid economic growth, and considered one of the most important manufacturing base and logistics hub for coastal China. Ranking second with the highest GDP in 2001, Hangzhou had GDP of Hangzhou was RMB ¥156.8 billion. Recently it has more than tripled its economic growth, from RMB ¥701.1 billion in 2011 and GDP per capita increasing from US$3,025 to US$12,447. The urban growth of the society is somewhat prominent in this manner.

What is it like living in Hangzhou?

It has been known that Hangzhou is vastly populated by rich and wealthy business people, but there is still a significant percentage of civillians who have gone through rural- urban migration to work labor and lower class jobs in Hangzhou.

I’ve found a source on the internet asking the real community this question and found several responses, regarding what the city is like overall, life as a student, and the people in the Hangzhou community

“You have the city when you feel like doing city stuff, and you have the lake, mountains, and temples when you feel like getting away from (most of) it all.”

“Hangzhou is a pretty safe, and in my opinion, sleepy city.”

“As provinces go Zhejiang is filthy rich and feels way more like the modern world than other bits of China. The cities aren't massive, but there's enough of a foreign business presence (as well as rich parents willing to pay for English training centers) to ensure a relatively big expat social scene.”

“jobs are really difficult to hunt for, I am a college graduate but all the requirements or demands for a job are so high that I am unable to find a decent paying job. Now i’m stuck as a mailman.

“school life is kinda stressful, the traditional you’re either the winner or you’re nothing concept is extremely prominent in our community. This stresses almost everyone out because our parents all want us to be number 1.”

“The city itself is beautiful but the local people I met were downright rude and arrogant, for what reason I have no idea.”

Below is a screenshot of a community reddit response to that question.

Hangzhou living standards

Below is a chart summarising the cost of living in Hangzhou:

It has also been well noted that the geographical theories of Urban morphology, bit rent curve have had on the society and how it has effected the people financially around that area

summary

  • Hangzhou is a modern, wealthy city with a large range of rich people and poor people
  • The living standard in Hangzhou is relatively high
  • Hangzhou may be considered an economically resilient city
  • The students are struggling to find and maintain decent jobs
  • People in the Hangzhou community range from being nice to rude and arrogant

How severe is the problem of suicide in China?

Suicide is the leading cause of death for people aged between 15 and 34 in China. A two-year survey by researchers at Peking University found over 20% of 140,000 high-school students interviewed had considered committing suicide. 6.5% of the students surveyed said they had made plans to kill themselves.

One woman kills herself every four minutes in China. Every year, 1.5 million Chinese women attempt suicide, with another 150,000 succeed in taking their own lives.

China’s suicide rate is two to five times higher in rural areas than in the cities. Suicide is the leading cause of death for young women in China.

China is the only country in the world where more women commit suicide than men, according to World Health Organization statistics. Women in China have a 25% higher rate than men.

Then we must ask ourselves, who are these people and what are the statistics that suggest specific reasons for them to commit suicide?

What are the reasons that justify women living in rural areas frequenting suicide?

As the suicidal rates in China are two to five times higher in rural areas than in cities and that the percentage of women committing suicide is 25% higher than men, we can assume that the main group of people who are committing suicide are women living in rural areas. Studies done by a range of different websites have suggested justifications of this issue as the strict and traditional sexist ideology and objectification of females. Additional to this group of people, another group of people (specific in age) who have frequented suicide are people from the ages of 11 to 34. Through referencing a series of suicide cases (see stories page) two popular identified reasons for their deaths are pressure in education as well as economic struggles. The wide spread of these "concerns" may be the result of cumualative causation within a community.

Now we must determine what are the three main components that contribute to the high suicide rates in China from analyzing the people who commit suicide, their social class. their reason for committing suicide, and their condition before they committed suicide

Rural women in China often have a “crushing double burden of work” where they “carry not only the burden of maintaining a household and raising a family, often under the critical gaze of their neighbours, but must also work full-time to survive.”

According to a traditional saying among rural men, “Marrying a woman is like buying a horse: I can ride you and beat you whenever I like,” according to Xu Rong, head of the Beijing’s Suicide Prevention Project. She explained that (rural wives) “have their father-in-law to deal with, their mother-in-law, various uncles, sisters-in-law and so on. She’s got to gain everyone’s acceptance. When there are conflicts, she’s the weakest…. If a woman goes to live with her husband’s family and they treat her well, or if she’s found someone who loves and respects her, she’ll be all right. If not, things will be very difficult for her.”

There’s a traditional Chinese saying that there are three solutions to a woman’s problems: “One – to cry; two – to scream; and three – to hang herself”.

An estimated 70-80% of rural suicides are attributed to marital conflicts. In rural China—where traditional attitudes about marriage still prevail—“many marriages are arranged and operate like business deals in which the groom’s parents ‘buy’ the bride, and she becomes part of their family….which leads to emotional problems for young wives who leave their own family and friends to enter an alien environment.”

Summary

With ideology so harsh on women as shown through the two examples: “One – to cry; two – to scream; and three – to hang herself”; and “Marrying a woman is like buying a horse: I can ride you and beat you whenever I like,” the environment a woman living in rural areas have to deal with is extremely unfortunate. The traditions that give men the right to treat women like dogs range from marital deals to trading of women.The way men objectify women and follow harsh traditions put women into a trap where they have no freedom, no choice, but a mere slave. Women are placed in a position where the men’s irrational behaviour (as seen from a modern citizen’s perspective) is expected and completely reasonable, giving them no escape or reason to protest.As one could imagine how that could affect one’s emotions, being constantly beaten, bossed around, controlled everyday without protest. Many have spiraled down into clinical depression and emotional difficulties, resolving in their release of death.

How does the education system affect the lives of 11- 34 year olds (given their dominating suicide rate)?

We then ask the question, do these strict, traditional, and sexist ideologies apply in Hangzhou?

With Hangzhou being a relatively modern city, to a certain extent these traditional ideologies may not necessarily apply and affect as many people or as significantly compared to women in rural areas.

This then leads to the difficulty of finding a job. Given the fact that finding a job is already extremely difficult, the additional discrimination and objectification makes a woman’s working life extremely difficult and stressful, potentially leading to clinical depression.

Here are the factors that may contribute to making a woman’s working life difficult:  *keeping in mind these factors could range from severe to slightly influencing*

  • The general discrimination of women’s inability to function as well or as efficiently as men
  • The sexist objectification of women

Moving on we discover what happens after high school or college? Are those students still stressed and pressured? How does the stress after education affect people?

Additional to the educational stress, why do 18 - 34 year olds commit suicide (assuming that they’ve finished their education) because of economic struggle?

AN INTERVIEW WITH A LOCAL

Recently I went on a community and service trip to Xi Xi wetlands and I decided to cease the opportunity to interview several females who worked there. Below is one of the more relevant interviews that I conducted. Unfortunately she refused to reveal her name or let me take a photo.  

How difficult was to obtain a job as a female?

Maintaining a job was somewhat difficult not in the terms of discrimination of people who are hiring people but in the terms of our family values. Families wouldn't let their daughters out to work and would mostly encourage them to stay home and become a housewife. Our lives always revolved around a man, regardless if it was our fathers or a husband. Our mothers raised us to follow all out husbands needs or anyone who had the potential to become our husband. Life was always about someone else, we were just stepping stones to improve their lives.

Maintaining a job was somewhat annoying as there would be occasional situations where our boss would harass us. But voicing this out may create speculation and the blame always ends up on us.

What aspects of life was especially frustrating living life as a female (despite biological reasons)?

Living in a society where we're expected to take care of males and living life around a male we never really got a say in most of the things we did. We were always just... there. We were like their helpers. But I guess it wasn't really their fault as much as it is our traditions, our mothers raised us to be this way so its more of the culture to blame.

One of the main reasons why education is so pressurising and stressful for people who are in education is because of the wealth gap.

An invisible hierarchy within a range of public schools provide a way out of poverty. This has been known to directly correlate with the high suicidal rates around China, but specifically Hangzhou. Other methods would be financial aid, scholarships etc. Because students are put in the position where they have to perform the best in order to escape poverty, they are put under massive pressure and competition.

Additional to such, students with financially mediocre or stable families also tend to be pressured into performing exquisitely in school.

Statistics (displayed below) recorded from a research project done by National provincial education department shows how Zhejiang province and specifically Hangzhou is struggling with this problem.

47.4 percent of eighth-graders polled said they are under a lot of pressure from the school curriculum. That ratio is 4 percentage points higher than the national average

31 percent of the students said they face the risk of depression.

Results also showed 23.4 percent of junior high school students resent their school lives. That figure is 3.2 percentage points higher than the national average.

Although these statistics show how stressful and terrible life as a student will be, their academic scores rank the second if the students scores were taken in comparison with 65 other nations, just behind Shanghai.

Ironically, workload in Hangzhou schools have been recorded to be below the national average, it has been reported that the pressure mainly comes from peers, competition, and parents.

A perfect example of this issue would be Gan Ting, an eighth-grader at Hangzhou Zhaohui Middle School

“I am going to take the senior high school entrance exam in 2015, and my father wants me to get into one of the top three schools in the city, but I’m worried I will fail.It’s true that the school does not impose homework pressure on us, but the fact that we still have to compete with so many of our peers in the exams for getting into a good senior high school and the following national college entrance exam haunts me.”

Throughout the news report she was featured in, she mentions her after-school classes in math and English on Tuesday and Thursday nights in addition to normal schooling.

“Or else I will fall behind. I can’t afford to fail in the upcoming exams,” she commented as she tried to defend herself.

Shao Xingjiang, a professor of education studies at Zhejiang University, said the mental pressure on high school students will not disappear, given the insufficient high-quality education resources.

“Students and their parents are dying to get into top schools because they believe these schools can give them more insurance in getting into better colleges and jobs. If we can provide more high quality education resources to them, they don’t need to be under such a heavy burden.”

Other cases demonstrating the severity of stress and pressure in school environments include:

The 11 year old girl:

On Mar 31, 2015, an 11 year old Hangzhou girl allegedly plunged to her death from here seventh floor balcony as her parents were parking the car in response to being sent home for incompleted homework.

Teachers related to that little girl have reported to the police and said that “previously during the day she didn’t do homework and lied to the teacher about it, so the teacher thought she needed a talk with her parents.”

Principal Zheng (the principal of the school) then commented on the issue saying

“Both the parents and the teacher communicated. The parents were friendly and the experienced teacher didn’t say anything out of line. Both parties finally agreed to take the girl home so that she could complete her homework before sending her back to school again.”

It was concluded that no one around the premises of the little girl’s death had any idea that she would come to such extreme terms with the problem. They all thought it was something she could sleep off and wake up forgetting the next day.

Read full article here:

http://shanghaiist.com/2015/03/31/11-yo-hangzhou-girl-jumps-to-death.php

The 10 year old boy

“I only got 39 in my English exam. I regret that I didn’t listen to my grandma yesterday. I’ll spend more time reviewing my lessons next time before the exam” were the last recorded words of a little boy name Xiao Huan who hung himself on the windowsill in his bedroom

Xiao Huan was a grade five primary school student and lived with his grandparents in Hangzhou while his parents worked in Jiangsu. It was noted that after returning from school, Xiao showed his grandmother his test scores only to find her criticising him saying

“You could get over 80 in the past. How come you only scored 39 this time? You shouldn’t go out to play after school. You should stay home reviewing your lessons for two hours a day.”

The grandmother noted that he had said nothing else other than smile and agree and emphasised that she had no idea he would come to such extreme terms with this problem.

It was reported that Xiao killed himself as his grandmother left the house to fetch dinner, and she returned to find her grandson kneeling against the windowsill with his feet cushioned by a pillow. A rope was connected to his neck, and the other end was fastened to the weld mesh of the windowsill.

“Other reasons for his death would’ve been his pressure in school.” Recounted his parents. Xiao Huan’s cousin, who is in his class, told the family that he was made to stand up for ten minutes in school on Thursday morning. But the school proceeded to reply that many students were asked to stand up during class because they were talking as the teacher spoke.

Further investigation on the issue is underway.

How does the wealth gap affect people?

With Hangzhou being such a modern city and a large percentage of wealthy people, it is known that the wealthy parents tend to spend a lot of money providing a more international and high quality education to their children. Compared with the poorer populations in Hangzhou, they are unable to maintain the same level of education as the wealthy causing them to fall behind as they apply for jobs.

The children with high levels of education and international knowledge surpass those without international education in terms of getting into college or applying for a job. In this situation all the wealthy children take the places of the poor because they have better qualifications. For the poorer generations who weren’t able to afford such high levels of education, their children are left with working hard labor jobs, unable to step out of the downwards spiral that is poverty. This issue has somewhat improved as the unemployment rate of Hangzhou has dropped 2.94% since 2008.

Cases of suicide ranging around the issue of economic struggle are as follows:

The graduate without a job

Police rescued a man of 18 who tried to commit suicide by laying on the tracks of a subway in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, on Tuesday at 12 pm, according to the China News Service.

Police confirmed that the man lied down on the tracks at Qiaosi subway station, and that subway traffic was suspended until 12:40 pm. Zhu Chunlei, deputy general manager of the Hangzhou Metro, was quoted as saying that the company is still investigating the situation.

Further investigation has suggested that the reason for his death lies in his struggle to find a decent job. His family members have mentioned that there weren’t signs of him being depressed or entertaining the thought of suicide, it just happened. As recounted by his fellow classmates he has had struggle with grades and barely graduated. But once he did he struggled to find a decent paying job and was stuck with hard labor jobs.

The man who tried to donate his organs

A man in Hangzhou City in east China’s Zhejiang Province texted police to donate his body and organs to science before committing suicide. Wang’s suicide note: My last and biggest wish is to donate all my useful organs and body to charity. I hope you respect my choice. A man who texted police in China to donate his body and organs to science before hanging himself was denied his final wish because he had not applied in advance, official media said Wednesday. “I have decided to donate my body and all my organs to charity. When you receive my message, I will already be dead.”

Further research has noted that potential reasons for his death would be his work pressure and his struggle to maintain the living standards in Hangzhou. Previous records has mentioned that he has been under the poverty line for quite a while and unable to reach or support his parents in a nursing home.

In conclusion, we now know that the three main groups of people who commit suicide are women struggling with gender stereotypes and sexist objectification traditions, students between the ages of 11-34, and struggling graduates or unemployed populations struggling to maintain a job. Specifically, the reason for the stress on finding a job would be the fact that the living standards in Hangzhou is relatively high and that the wealth gap creates this inevitable spiral for those who live in poverty continue to be in poverty while those who are financially strong to be; while students are pressured to perform their best and be the best in order to ensure a space in a good college or a good job. The gender stereotypes and sexist traditions in China are extremely prominent in rural areas of China, but it’s sexist traditions have taken shape in more modern means in Hangzhou such as limiting women to jobs given their stereotype of being inefficient and difficult to work with or creating a rather discouraging environment for women to live in given the objectification and discrimination of women.

Evidence that supports such have included a series of different suicidal cases with these exact reasons, statistics from previously done experiments, opinions collected from a range of people struggling with this problem, and interviews with people who have a previously established knowledge/database on the issue.

So what now, we know the reasons for Hangzhou’s high suicidal rate, what are we going to do about it?

Experts have made a point saying that a higher quality of education would benefit the students from relieving in stress as the competition wouldn’t be as intense. But I truly believe that people should raise awareness on how much stress students are undergoing currently in order for people around to start making a change, adjusting their method of encouraging education onto students. Encouragement or support may be better alternatives compared to pressure and only pressure.

According to BBC, small movements and organizations raising awareness of the sexist traditions in China have been somewhat successful. Xu Rong, head of the Suicide Prevention Project at the Beijing Cultural Development Centre for Women has stated that several different movements have been carried out in response to this problem in hopes of raising awareness for women’s rights.

Glossary

Resilient

Recovering readily from illness, depression, adversity, or the like; buoyant.

Inclusive

Including or encompassing the stated limit or extremes in consideration or account (usually used postpositively)

Authenticity

The quality of being authentic; genuineness.

Feed back mechanisms

The mechanism of feedback, or the action of which constructive comments are given about a subject

Correlation

Mutual relation of two or more things, parts, etc.

GIS

Geographic Information System: A system of which stores, analyses, calculates, manipulates, and present geographical data.

Urbanization

Growth in becoming more like a city. Attaining more variety and different characteristics of a city.

Urban growth

Growth in a place and declining economic connections for independence. The growth of an urban population.

Rural-urban migration

Migration and switch of settling areas from rural to modern/urban societies.

ELDC, EMDC

Economically less developed city (E.L.D.C)/Economically more developed city (E.M.D.C)

Location, site, form,

Cumualative causation

A theory developed by Swedish economist Gunnar Myrdal in the year 1956 stating that one change could lead to or influence other changes.  In more technical terms: change in one form of an institution will lead to successive changes in other institutions where the core variables and their linkages are described explicitly.

Industrialisation

The change of a society from a primarily agricultural society to a society that specialises in manufacturing goods and services.

Urban morphology

The study of the form of human settlements and how its formed and its transformation. This study specifically studies and goes into the spacial structure and the overall structure, physically and intellectually of a city by investigating patterns.

Urban land use models

Examples of modern land use in an urban environment.

Bid-rent curve

A geographical theory which depicts how the distance between the central business district and a specific location will directly correlate with the real estate and value.

Distance decay

Is a theory that describes the effect of distance on cultural or spatial interactions. Stating that that the interaction between two locales declines as the distance between them increases. Once the distance is outside of the two locales' activity space, their interactions begin to decrease.

Functional zones

Are zones of which where buildings of the same function cluster together in an area of a city or town

Bibliography

Article and photo credits included

Pappas, Stephanie. "Suicide: Statistics, Warning Signs and Prevention."LiveScience. TechMedia Network, 16 Mar. 2015. Web. 28 May 2015. <http://www.livescience.com/44615-suicide-help.html>.

"Pesticide Exposure and Suicidal Ideation in Rural Communities in Zhejiang Province, China." WHO. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 May 2015. <http://www.who.int/bulletin/volumes/87/10/08-054122/en/>.

"Result Filters." National Center for Biotechnology Information. U.S. National Library of Medicine, n.d. Web. 28 May 2015. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19397597>.

"Zhejiang Students at High Risk of Depression." Hangzhou Weekly Hangzhou News and Events RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 May 2015. <http://hangzhouweekly.com/society/zhejiang-students-at-high-risk-of-depression>.

"Hangzhou Redditors- What's That Like? • /r/China." Reddit. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 May 2015. <http://www.reddit.com/r/China/comments/160wu4/hangzhou_redditors_whats_that_like/>.

"American Woman Jumps into West Lake to save Suicide Attemptee."Shanghaiist. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 May 2015. <http://shanghaiist.com/2011/10/15/american_woman_jumps_into_west_lake_1.php>.

"Cost of Living in Hangzhou, China. Apr 2015 Prices in Hangzhou."Expatistan, Cost of Living Comparisons. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 May 2015. <http://www.expatistan.com/cost-of-living/hangzhou>.

"Cost of Living in Hangzhou, China." Cost of Living in Hangzhou. Prices in Hangzhou. Updated May 2015. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 May 2015. <http://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/city_result.jsp?country=China&city=Hangzhou>.

"Related Stories." Police Aborts Suicide Attempt in Hangzhou|Society|chinadaily.com.cn. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 May 2015. <http://europe.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2013-01/22/content_16157397.htm>.

" ." Hangzhou Suicide Man. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 May 2015. <http://www.whatsonningbo.com/tag-Hangzhou%20suicide%20man.html>.

"10-year-old Guangzhou Boy Hangs Himself after Penning Somber Diary Entry." Shanghaiist. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 May 2015. <http://shanghaiist.com/2014/11/21/10-year-old-guangzhou-boy-hangs-self-after-somber-diary-entry.php>.

Comment Stream