Lift death: ‘Why did no-one miss her?’

Screenshot of QQ News report on Xi'an lift death on 7 March 2016

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Chinese media reported that those in charge of the lift maintenance and the district’s property management company have been arrested

News that a Chinese woman died after being trapped in a lift for a month has prompted shock and questions online.

The lift in residential building in Xian had been turned off by two maintenance workers on 30 January. The woman’s body was found a month later.

The incident has once again raised concerns about China’s troubled safety standards record, but also sparked discussion on issues from single women to care for the mentally unwell.

‘Man-eating’ lifts

“Thirty days, how much pain and suffering she would have gone through, my heart aches for her,” said user Huixinya on the popular microblogging network Weibo.

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In July 2015 a woman died after falling into a faulty mall escalator in Jingzhou city

Many like her expressed horror and sympathy at the death of the 43-year-old woman, whose family name was Wu.

There was widespread outrage over reports that staff had only done a cursory check – by shouting to see if anyone was inside – before turning off the power.

Chinese media reported that those in charge of the lift maintenance and the district’s property management company have been arrested for involuntary manslaughter.

“Would it have been so difficult to just open the lift and check?” said one user, while another pointed out: “What if it was a deaf person, or a deaf-mute person in the lift?”

Others lambasted the staff, calling them “lazy” and “irresponsible”. “This is not due to a workplace accident, but due to workers who lack even a basic level of personal integrity,” said a Weibo user.

The incident brought back worries of falling safety standards and a culture of cutting corners. In a prominent case last year, a woman died after falling into a faulty escalator in a shopping mall.

“The recent spate of lift and escalator deaths cannot be simply attributed to manufacturing issues, but also to shirked duties and careless maintenance,” read one commentary on web portal Red Net, calling for standards to be improved to “cure this illness of ‘man-eating’ lifts”.

An app for single women?

With reports stating that Ms Wu had lived alone and barely kept in contact with her family, concerns were also raised about the safety of single women.

Some expressed surprise that it appeared that nobody had raised the alarm about her long disappearance, and worried about increasing urban isolation.

Weibo user Xiaowuerfu noted: “Maybe we could have an app, where every day you tap on it twice, if after two days you haven’t tapped it, it would alert the police.

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AFP/Getty Images

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China has long been concerned about single women, known as “sheng nu”

“I’d thought incidents like these would only happen in the rural countryside, but a busy city is also a steel forest, you are surrounded by so many people and can have many friends, but very few real connections,” said another commenter.

The issue of unmarried females, stigmatised in China as “sheng nu” or leftover women, has long been a topic of concern in a culture that prioritises marriage and childhood for women.

The state has tried to urge more single women to marry, particularly with a huge gender imbalance caused by the recently ended one-child policy.

‘Mentally ill are people too’

Widely circulated reports quoted unnamed neighbours that Ms Wu may have suffered from mental health problems.

Though such reports were unverified, some online used them to raise questions about the care of people with mental illnesses.

“How could her family have allowed her to go missing for a month? What about her social community, what were they doing?” said one user.

Others criticised the media, asking how the issue was relevant.

Said one outraged commenter: “This has nothing to do with the fact that the deceased was mentally ill! Would a sane person have been able to survive a month in a lift?”

Another pointed out: “This incident’s happened, then you bring up this woman’s mental history. God, aren’t the mentally ill people too?”

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