'Disappearance' of Schoolteacher Rings Alarm Bells in China's Sichuan

Sichuan schoolteacher Yu Zhirong is shown in undated photos released by her family after her disappearance.
Photos provided by family

The family of a schoolteacher in the southwestern Chinese province of Sichuan has reported her missing after she took a wrong turn in a government office complex in the provincial capital, Chengdu, RFA has learned.

Yu Zhirong, 26, has been reported missing and police are "investigating," an employee who answered the phone at the Sichuan University Affiliated Middle School said on Thursday.

The employee of the Xincheng district campus of the school, where Yu teaches, said she wasn't there.

"She's not here. What's happened is the police have gotten involved, and are investigating," the employee said. "We have no clear information right now."

"We can't tell you anything, because the police haven't found anything out for sure yet."

A local source told RFA that Yu had entered the government office complex in Chengdu to hand in some papers to the Wuhou district education bureau, but was misdirected to the No. 3 office of the Chengdu municipal education bureau instead.

City-level governments are currently under security lockdown as part of a nationwide "stability maintenance" operation ahead of the 70th anniversary of Chinese Communist Party rule on Oct. 1, under which anyone petitioning the government would be arrested on sight, the source said.

Yu's interaction with security guards must have triggered an alarm, prompting stability maintenance personnel to detain her, believing her to be a petitioner, the source said.

It was unclear exactly why she had gotten "lost," however.

An employee who answered the phone at the local police station declined to comment when contacted by RFA on Thursday, and immediately hung up the phone.

Family falls silent

A Chengdu-based journalist who gave only his surname Lu said Yu's family had reported her missing on Sept. 18, but had fallen silent after giving initial interviews to local journalists.

"They think she may have gotten into an altercation with a security guard," Lu said. "There were large numbers of special police patrolling the area at the time."

"The teacher got scared when the police officer told her to make a statement, and ran for the subway," he said. "The police called her parents at 7.00 p.m. that evening and said that something unexpected had happened to her, but they didn't say what."

"The incident happened on Sept. 16, and then a missing person's notice was issued on the morning of Sept. 18," Lu said.

He said it was normal in China for ordinary people to run afoul of tight nationwide security ahead of politically sensitive dates like the Oct. 1 National Day celebrations.

"If the police get angry with you around National Day, it would be quite usual for them to detain her," Lu said. "These measures are usually aimed at specific sorts of people like petitioners or dissidents, who make comments online."

Yu's mother declined to comment when contacted by RFA on Thursday.

Reported by Wong Siu-san and Wong Lok-to for RFA's Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.


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