A cold case from 19 years ago has become the center of media attention in China.

In 1994, Zhu Ling was a sophomore studying physical chemistry at one of the nation’s most prestigious universities, Tsinghua University. At the end of the year, the talented, intelligent and engaged student was poisoned with thallium. Fortunately, after spending some time at a hospital, she was able to make a full recovery and return to school. The following March, Zhu was poisoned with the same deadly chemical, and she has not made a full recovery. The high dosage of thallium has made Zhu almost completely blind and permanently paralyzed and she now has the intelligence of a 6-year-old due to a significant amount of brain damage.

Zhu Ling
Pictures of Zhu Ling before and after her poisoning, which occurred in 1994, were shared on Weibo before being deleted by censors. Weibo

Zhu’s case has been resurrected after the most recent scandal in mid-April regarding a graduate student in Shanghai’s Fudan University. Huang Yang, like Zhu Ling, was a bright student. He was attending the university’s medical program and was recently admitted into the PhD program. However on April 5 he fell into a coma after being poisoned by a highly toxic chemical, dimethylnitrosamine. On April 16, Huang died.

While the outcome of Huang Yang’s case is still under investigation, many are going back to the case from 19 years ago, saying the judicial system has failed Zhu.

In both cases, the primary suspects were the roommates of the victims. In Zhu’s case, her roommate, Sun Wei, was the only person who had access to the deadly thallium chemical. Still, after only eight hours of interrogation, Sun was released.

According to a report by Off Beat China, Sun Wei, who also goes by her English name Jasmine, now lives in the United States. Sun is also the daughter of a very powerful and well-connected Chinese family; her grandfather and her uncle are high-ranking officials. Some rumors even claim that her grandfather asked his old friend, former Chinese president Jiang Zemin, for help.

Many took to Weibo, demanding that the case be re-opened and reinvestigated. On May 3, many of the most active bloggers found that their posts relating to Zhu’s case had mysteriously been deleted. It wasn’t long before netizens realized that their posts had been purposefully deleted by China’s government censors; when typing Zhu Ling’s name, an error page said, “According to relevant laws and regulations, search results for ‘Zhu Ling’ are not displayed.”

Zhu Ling Blocked On Weibo
Various search terms related to Zhu Ling's poisoning case in 1994 only returned empty search results, despite being hotly discussed on Weibo. Weibo

Soon enough the words “thallium, “Sun Wei,” “Tsinghua poisoning, “Tsinghua thallium, “thallium poisoning” and several other combinations of related words also returned the error page.

On May 4, Yao Chen, a famous Chinese actress, posted the following to her 45 million Weibo followers:

“Nineteen years ago, the young Zhu Ling was poisoned. Nineteen years later, this name has again been poisoned.”

Now, many have turned to the White House for help. A petition on the White House website has garnered more than 150,000 signatures.

The petition is calling for the “Invest and deport [sic]” of Jasmine Sun, the main suspect in Zhu’s case.

The body of the petition states that “the case was closed due to her family’s powerful political connections.”

“To protect the safety of our citizens, we petite [sic] that the government investigate and deport her.”

Because the petition was able to reach 100,000 signatures, the Obama administration will review the case and issue a response.