It didn’t take long for Chinese netizens to get on the case of the brutal Virginia Tech murder. Almost immediately, forum members human flesh searched the killer, Zhu Haiyang, and sussed out his university scores, his QQ number and – most importantly – his blog. While nobody can know for sure why he decapitated 22-year-old Yang Xin in the middle of a public cafe, there are now a few more guesses as to what caused an otherwise affable and studious PhD student to snap.
His last blog entry was written just two weeks before the murder and talked about how he had lost everything in the stock market. He linked to a news story of Adolf Merckle, one of Germany’s richest men, who had thrown himself in front of a train on January 5th after losing hundreds of millions of dollars betting against Volkswagon shares.
His comment: “My stocks have also suffered tremendously… to the point where there’s no hope for return. Looks like I’m going to have to eat badly for three years. Agricultural economics (Zhu Haiyang’s major) doesn’t earn much money… and she also makes me feel crazy.”
He added, “With the stocks dropping, I’ve been feeling uneasy lately… to the point where I want to kill someone or commit suicide.”
A friend who studied with Zhu Haiyang proposed another theory, saying that Zhu had been stressed out over his grades at the school. He told netizens that Zhu’s father was a doctorate in Ningbo and that Zhu was under a lot of pressure to succeed.
A month before the killing, Zhu was still in contact with his high school friends in Shanghai. He told them that lately, no matter how hard he studied, he didn’t seem to be getting the grades he needed. If he didn’t pass certain exams, the school would stop his scholarship.
In Shanghai, Zhu had earned extremely high marks, scoring 663 out of 677 of the TOEFL, winning first prize in national English competitions and getting exam scores in the high 90s. A journal entry written three weeks after arriving in Virginia was optimistic: “Even though I don’t get to sleep until midnight or 1am every day, only to wake up at 6am or 7am, I feel very fulfilled. It’s not like in China’s graduate programs, where I feel like I’m not learning anything.”