Online attacks on pink-haired graduate student end in tragedy

Xu Yiwen Wang Qingchu
Zheng Linghua's excitement over her graduate school acceptance turned into a nightmare when cyber bullies targeted her for dyeing her hair pink.
Xu Yiwen Wang Qingchu
Online attacks on pink-haired graduate student end in tragedy

Zheng Linghua visited her grandfather at hospital in July 2022 and showed him the graduate school admission letter.

A 24-year-old graduate student from East China Normal University, Zheng Linghua, has died by suicide after being cyberbullied for dyeing her hair pink, reportedly due to depression.

Zheng posted videos and photos of herself visiting her grandfather in the hospital last year, reading him her graduate school admission letter, and sharing her excitement.

However, online harassers twisted the story and fabricated false claims, calling her a "bar girl" and suggesting a romantic relationship between Zheng and her grandfather.

The harassment began on July 13, 2022, after Zheng shared her photos and videos on social media platforms including Douyin, Weibo and Xiaohongshu.

Her lawyer had called for an end to the harassment and for the removal of the abusive content.

However, the attacks continued, and later Zheng was diagnosed as being in a depressed state.

A friend of Zheng's, identified as Xiao Wei, reported that Zheng showed suicidal thoughts several times in 2023, and had asked if there was "a way to die without pain."

They had not been in contact for a few days before Zheng's death.

Xiao Wei wrote, "I deeply felt her despair and helplessness."

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