For three months, the disappearance of Hu Xinyu gripped China.
The whereabouts of the 15-year-old, who disappeared from a boarding school in the southern province of Jiangxi in October, was one of the most discussed topics on the Chinese internet for months.
It sparked numerous questions, speculation, and round after round of exhaustive police investigations. searches, including along with thousands of residents earlier this month.
Then on Sunday, more than 100 days after Hu’s disappearance, local police said Hu’s body had been found in the woods near his school.
The discovery was made by a member of the public on Thursday. The body was wearing clothing that matched the one Hu was wearing when she disappeared. prompting police to summon his family and lawyer to the scene.
DNA tests later confirmed that the body was Hu, the Shangrao city police said in a statement.
A voice recorder found near the body had been sent for analysis, according to the statement.
But rather than bring closure, the discovery has only raised more questions about the circumstances surrounding his death.
Hu’s death was the top trending topic on Weibo, similar to China’s Twitter, on Monday, with various hashtags accumulating hundreds of millions of views.
Many comments questioned why extensive police searches, complete with sniffer dogs, drones and thermal imaging equipment, failed to discover the body in an area so close to the school.
The forest where Hu was found is just a five-minute walk from the school, separated by a wall about two meters high from the campus, China National Radio reported.
An autopsy has been carried out, but the results have not been published, according to The Paper, a state news website.
It is not uncommon for children and teenagers to go missing in China, but Hu’s disappearance is one of the most high-profile cases in recent years. According to the Zhongmin Welfare Institute, a non-profit organization based in Beijing, one million people disappeared in China in 2020, an average of 2,739 per day.
On Chinese social media, some questioned why, in a country known for its ubiquitous high-tech surveillance and security cameras, a 15-year-old boy could seemingly disappear without a trace.
Hu had just started studying at Zhiyuan High School, a private boarding school in Yanshan County where he entered on a scholarship in September, when he suddenly disappeared.
He was last seen on security camera footage walking down a hallway in his dorm room at dusk on Oct. 14, about 15 minutes before an afternoon study session was to begin in the classroom, according to police.
Hu disappeared somewhere between the dormitory and the teaching building, in an area not covered by security cameras, state media reported.
Hu’s family was notified by the school of Hu’s disappearance about six hours later, the family said in a missing person notice. Hu left his smartwatch and cash in the dormitory, carrying only a digital voice recorder and a school card used to pay for meals on campus, according to the notice.
Hu’s parents could not be reached by cell phone Monday.
As the investigations and searches did not lead to any progress, unsubstantiated speculation swirled online, underlining the deep-seated public distrust in local authorities.
In response, the police issued a detailed statement on January 7 making it clear that they had found no evidence that Hu was killed or involved in an accident inside the school. Hu likely left campus at his own expense, police said.
The statement also detailed the extensive search efforts by the police, covering almost 40 hectares of forest near the school, 200 kilometers of river, 22 kilometers of railways, and 72 ponds and 3 reservoirs.
The search continued after January 7 and involved thousands of people, including local residents who volunteered to join, state media reported at the time.
On Sunday, the website of the People’s Daily, the main mouthpiece of the Communist Party, published a opinion piece Calling on local authorities to address public concerns, including why they were unable to find Hu’s body in more than 100 days.
The public is also called upon to be patient with the official results.
“The Hu Xinyu incident has attracted the attention of the entire country. No one dares to fake anything, and no one can fake it,” the article said. “If there is any mistake, the consequences will be disastrous.”
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