Sunday, 28 April 2013

The savagery within the Chinese

Two particularly striking murders this year involving Chinese people bring attention to the violence that lies behind a domesticated and civilised public demeanour. A couple of days ago two Chinese women were found dead in the Sydney suburb of Auburn as a result of a "gruesome" and "brutal" murder; not long afterward the body of the primary suspect, Hong Rui Fu, was found dead on train tracks southwest of Sydney. From the guarded official language used in the news stories about Fu's death it appears he suicided. And back in February, Shan Wu, a Chinese woman living in Newcastle, a city about an hour's drive north of Sydney, was killed in a "violent" and "horrific" murder; the primary suspect is a man who arrived from China immediately before the murder and who Wu had picked up from Sydney airport.

In the case of the Auburn murders, "The crime scene was so confronting that paramedics and police who arrived on the scene had to have counselling." In the case of the Newcastle murder:
Blood had been spattered across two of the unit's three rooms. The woman's body was discovered with a weapon, believed to be a meat cleaver, lodged in her neck. A bloodied fishing gaff was found nearby.
These three murders combined to remind me of the famous Lin family murders of 2009, another Sydney case that is routinely labelled "brutal". In the Lin case, five people were bludgeoned to death with "a hammer type weapon" while asleep in their Epping home. Robert Xie, a relative of the Lins, has been charged with the murders and the case is still before the courts. The motive for the Lin murders has not been established.

No motive has been mentioned in the Newcastle case but in the case of Fu it appears that the motive was linked to domestic concerns. Apparently one of the murdered women, Fu's wife Doris Yan, had talked about a divorce.

It's always dangerous to generalise on the basis of ethnicity, especially when, as in all these cases, guilt has not been explicitly assigned by the authorities. But here are eight people who have been killed in especially violent ways and they are all Chinese. Historically, China's high population has bred a culture of civility and domesticity; Europe's cultural, political, and economic dominance in the world is a recent and aberrant phenomenon. With so many people living together at such close quarters, civility for the Chinese is an essential coping strategy, but these violent murders point to a type of critical moment in the Chinese psyche. A facade of civility can be long maintained but when the tipping point is reached the reaction can be cataclysmic, like an elastic material that is stretched to beyond breaking point.

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