‘New Women’ of the May 4th Movement, 1919 – A protest by students and youth in no small way (as the photo above should illustrate) led by young Chinese women, initially organized against The Treaty of Versailles after the Imperial Powers divided up the World amongst themselves, including China.
Before WWI, saying suicide among young women was more common in China would be an understatement. While no reliable statistics are available, as today, suicides severely decimated the youth of China. Why did they happen?
Through the suicide of ‘Miss Chao’ – the pre-Communist Mao, with compassion, seeks answers…
Miss Chao’s Suicide
by Mao ( November, 1919)
“A person’s suicide is entirely determined by circumstances. Was Miss Chao’s original idea to seek death? On the contrary, it was to seek life. If Miss Chao ended up by seeking death instead, it is because circumstances drove her to this. The circumstances in which Miss Chao found herself were the following:
“(1) Chinese Society;
“(2) the Chao family of Nanyang Street in Changsha;
“(3) the Wu family of Kantzuyuan Street in Changsha, the family of the husband she did not want.
“These three factors constituted three iron nets, composing a kind of triangular cage. Once caught in these three nets, it was in vain that she sought life in every way possible.
“There was no way for her to go on living; the contrary of life is death, and Miss Chao thus felt compelled to die….If, among these three factors, there had been one that was not an iron net, or if one of these nets had opened, Miss Chao would certainly not have died.
“(1) If Miss Chao’s parents had not had recourse to compulsion but had yielded before Miss Chao’s free will, Miss Chao would certainly not have died;
“(2) if Miss Chao’s parents had not resorted to compulsion but had permitted Miss Chao to explain her point of view to the family of her future husband, and to explain the reasons for her refusal, and if in the end the family of her future husband had accepted her point of view, and respected her individual freedom, Miss Chao would certainly not have died;
“(3) even if her parents and the family of her future husband had refused to accept her free will, if in society there had been a powerful group of public opinion to support her, if there were an entirely new world where the fact of running away from one’s parents’ home and finding refuge elsewhere were considered honourable and not dishonourable, in this case, too, Miss Chao would certainly not have died.
“If Miss Chao is dead today, it is because she was solidly enclosed by the three iron nets (society, her own family, the family of her future husband); she sought life in vain and finally was led to seek death.
“Yesterday’s incident was important. It happened because of the shameful system of arranged marriages, because of the darkness of the social system, the negation of the individual will, and the absence of the freedom to choose one’s own mate.
“It is to be hoped that interested persons will comment on all aspects of this affair, and that they will defend the honour of a girl who died a martyr’s death for the cause of the freedom to choose her own love.
“The family of the parents and the family of the future husband are both bound up with society; they are both parts of society.
“We must understand that the family of the parents and the family of the future husband have committed a crime, but the source of this crime lies in society. It is true that the two families themselves carried out this crime; but a great part of the culpability was transmitted to them by society.
“Moreover, if society were good, even if the families had wanted to carry out this crime, they would not have had the opportunity to do so.
“Since there are factors in our society that have brought about the death of Miss Chao, this society is an extremely dangerous thing.
“It was capable of causing the death of Miss Chao; it could also cause the death of Miss Ch’ieh, Miss Sun, or Miss Li.
“It is capable of killing young men as well as young women. All of us, the potential victims, must be on our guard before this dangerous thing that could inflict a fatal blow on us.
“We should protest loudly, warn the other human beings who are not yet dead, and condemn the countless evils of our society.
Between 1990 and 2016, suicide rates in China fell by 64%, making China the #1 country in the world in suicide reduction, with the lowest suicide rate of any industrial country in the World.
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