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August 22, 2017

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Frenzy over writer's death obscures the real Lin Yi-han

In life, novelist Lin Yi-han (林奕含) tried to negotiate the shallowness of a society that reduces people into stereotypes, ciphers and punch lines.

In a Facebook post, Lin wrote about her encounter with the mass media. A reporter who interviewed her for achieving top scores in the national university entrance exam described her as a 1.68-meter-tall varsity volleyball team captain and editor-in-chief of the school magazine.

In fact, Lin merely told the reporter she liked to play volleyball and was a member of a club that edited the school magazine. "And I was only 1.62 meters tall at the time," she said. "I understand that this society, which constantly oppresses students, needs a superkid for its own comfort, but those were false statements, abusive language and violent words."

Lin probably would not be surprised that society has failed her again in the aftermath of her suicide.

After Lin's parents issued a statement claiming that her novel — about a high school student groomed and sexually assaulted by her Chinese literature cram school tutor — was based on Lin's real life experience, society flew into a frenzy of gossip-making, witch-hunting and finger-pointing.

Politicians looking for a place in the spotlight rushed out proposals and name-and-shame campaigns to "deliver justice" for Lin. Armchair sleuths combed Lin's novels for details and launched "human flesh searches" for the abusive tutor. Friends and supporters of accused tutors came out in their defense, some going as far as saying the tutors were only victims of derailed teacher-student love affairs.

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