China Grieves for Young Graduate Student Slain in Boston Bombings

Lu Lingzi, a Chinese graduate student at Boston University who has been confirmed as the third casualty of Monday's bombings, had worked her way up from obscurity in provincial China

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Jared Wickerham / Getty Images

People gather with candles during a vigil for 8-year-old Martin Richard, who was killed by an explosion near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, at Garvey Park in Boston on April 16, 2013

UPDATED

Lu Lingzi chose the English name Dorothy for herself, a fitting moniker for an adventurous young woman who was transported from rust-belt China to the U.S., where she was pursuing a master’s degree in mathematics and statistics at Boston University. On April 15, Lu hovered at the finish line of the Boston Marathon to cheer on classmates who were competing. She was one of three people killed by the twin blasts that turned the Patriots’ Day race into a scene of devastation. A fellow Chinese graduate student at Boston University, who was with Lu at the finish line, sustained serious injuries.

(PHOTOS: The Aftermath of the Boston Marathon Explosions)

Reared in the grimy northeastern city of Shenyang where she attended a special school for talented youth, Lu made her way south to Beijing for college, where she studied international economics and trade at the prestigious Beijing Institute of Technology, ranking eighth in her major, according to her online CV. While in her final year of college, she interned at Deloitte in Beijing. After graduation, Lu joined the roughly 200,000 Chinese students who study in the U.S. “She was very lovely and full of positive energy,” says Gong Zheng, a friend who met Lu when they used the same Beijing agency to help them with their study-abroad applications. Gong, who is now studying in Atlanta, says Lu belied the common image of Chinese students in America as being spoiled, rich brats who buy their way into academic institutions. “She and I are kids from ordinary Chinese families,” Gong says. “We just wanted to get a better future through our own hard work.” He adds that Lu “liked to use mathematics to solve problems.”

(MORE: Who’s Behind the Attack? Tracing Some Initial Clues)

Starting at Boston University last fall, Lu posted pictures on Facebook that described her “New Beginning in BU.” According to her Facebook profile, her likes ranged from Disneyland and Sephora beauty products to Lindt chocolate and the Economist magazine. Shortly after arriving in Boston, Lu posted a picture of traditional northern Chinese comfort food, porridge of mixed beans and grains. Was it a measure of homesickness or simply delight at being able to recreate this traditional dish in a faraway land?

Lu Lingzi

Meixu Lu / AP

Lu Lingzi

In an e-mail to TIME, Zhang Xuejiao, a middle-school classmate of Lu’s who is currently studying at Carnegie Mellon University, wrote of the pressures many Chinese students are under while in the States: “People in China, when they hear we are in America, they may only think about how great our lives are here, but they don’t know how hard we have to study. They don’t think about how we have to stay up every night to finish our homework. They don’t think about how great are the responsibility and expectations we have to carry.”

As news filtered out in China of Lu’s death, the reaction on Weibo, the Chinese social-media service, was swift. Barely an hour after Xinhua, China’s state media, confirmed that an unidentified Chinese student had been killed by the Boston bombs, more than 500 people had posted digital candles in her honor on Weibo. By the afternoon of April 17, more than 8,000 had so honored Lu. Earlier, the death of 8-year-old Martin Richard in the Boston explosions had also galvanized the Chinese Internet community, which poured out sympathy to his family. (Krystle Campbell, a 29-year-old restaurant manager, is the other confirmed fatality.)

Politics, though, is never far from the surface on Weibo, which remains the only way in which ordinary Chinese can express themselves in China’s tightly monitored public sphere. (Weibo is controlled by state censors but some information manages to get through.) Commenting on Chinese state broadcaster CCTV’s extensive coverage of the Boston tragedy, Weibo users wondered why fatal explosions in China have received scant scrutiny from Chinese media. The Chinese government is obsessed with maintaining stability and often obscures volatile events that might cause further unrest.

(MORE: After Boston Bombings, World Reacts With Flood of Tributes)

CCTV was also criticized for its flexible definition of who counts as one of its reporters. Among the 30 or so mainland Chinese competing in the Boston Marathon was real estate tycoon Wang Shi, who witnessed the explosions and posted several pictures of the mayhem. CCTV aired the photographs, calling one of China’s most famous businessmen “our journalist.” Wang, who was racing in Boston with 14 other employees of his China Vanke Co., fired back on Weibo: “When did I become a journalist?”

As for Lu, her Weibo postings often revolved around her pet dog and enthusiasm for food. She described the wonders of Western food, like Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, waffles and roast beef with mushrooms. Her last post was on the morning of the marathon. “My wonderful breakfast,” she wrote in English, next to a picture of Chinese bread, fruit and vegetables.

— With reporting by Gu Yongqiang and Chengcheng Jiang / Beijing

12 comments
Larry46r
Larry46r like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

Terrorism is a cancerous blight upon humanity. Those who continue to espouse and/or carry out acts of terrorism in the name of their political, religious or ethnocentric beliefs do not deserve to  belong to the community of mankind. Advocates of terror must be identified, hunted down and eliminated like any other disease.

onetimeonly
onetimeonly like.author.displayName 1 Like

:( i cannot imagine the pain her family is going through..  My sincerest condolences

onetimeonly
onetimeonly like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

This article is aimed at targeting China.. You are so disrespectful. A wonderful girl has just lost her life!Her family and friend are in grief! And you are using this opportunity to condemn their country?? So uncomfortable and embarrassing to have read an article interjected with disrespectful, ignorant and disgusting condemnations! Take your comments elsewhere.. this is not the place.. 

maven
maven

@onetimeonly - I do not understand where you (and others) see disrespect. It seems to me to be a moving story of a lovely, hard-working young woman whose life was senselessly cut short. It appears that the journalist, writing for a respected magazine, wrote an intelligent, well-rounded, and likely very accurate piece without any attempt to "condemn," "aggrandize," or "take swipes"at anyone. Did the writer err when she reported Lu enjoyed Western food, or that China (like many countries!) is obsessed with maintaining stability?" Or do you believe mentioning these things somehow showed disrespect to Lu or her family?

wyt168
wyt168

How about we leave it to the good readers' judgement to see if Ms. Beech is trying to bring politics into a story that is supposed to be focused on the personal life of a young, bright and ambitious lady whose life was cruelly cut short and how the nation of China is grieving for such a terrible loss?

Joecox
Joecox

NO one died, get over it do some research you bunch of gullible people

thinktwice
thinktwice like.author.displayName 1 Like

joecox,

It is time to change your tinfoil cap.

krt5489
krt5489 like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 3 Like

Yes, Beech woman, unethical indeed that you use this poor student's death to aggrandize western media and food. Your snobbery is revolting.

wyt168
wyt168 like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 3 Like

It looks like Lu is a bright, cheerful and sweet young lad. So sad a life cut short way ahead of its time. RIP. You are in a better world now.

p.s. I can't but notice that even in such a sad time, M. Beech has to dutifully take a few swipes at China. I suggest other readers go read the story on philly dot com or nydailynew dot com.

foddermail86
foddermail86 like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

Utterly heartbreaking.  My condolences to her family and friends and to all of those families who will never be the same.  I cannot imagine the sorrow of her parents.  Everyone kiss your children & tell them you love them; whether infants or grown men and women.  I am so sorry that Lu's parents will never get to tell her how much they love her and how proud they must have been of her ever again.  No one can ever make them whole, or give her back the life she worked so hard to create for herself.