Incoming freshmen at a university in China's Guangdong province have been asked to sign a contract waiving the school of any responsibility in the event any of them commit suicide.
An official told China Daily the contract was merely a "dormitory code of conduct" each of the 5,000 freshmen at City College of Dongguan University of Technology endorsed when they registered for school.
The document, officially called the "student management and self discipline agreement," contains language placing the burden of responsibility for any suicides or other injuries squarely on the students. Yet the cold legalese of officials offers little comfort to parents already nervous about leaving their children behind.
“I think this kind of agreement is irresponsible and unfair, and I doubt it’s going to have any effect on student behavior,” said Ms. Li, a mother whose son just started at the school, in a quote provided by Time. “The school should provide counseling services and other help for students, instead of trying to absolve themselves of responsibility even before anything has happened.”
The school is not alone in its pursuit of legal armor. In 2012, Shandong Jianzhu University in Jinan asked its 20,000 students to sign a similar "suicide waiver." The South China Morning Post cited "broken relationships" and "gloomy job prospects" as being among students' primary motives in considering self-harm.
Indeed, a report by The Telegraph zeroed in on Lie Wei, a 21-year-old student who committed suicide in 2009 amid depression and shame over her inability to find a job. "I can't read or write, so I wanted her to go [to college]," her mother, Wang Shuxian, told the paper, adding her daughter had earned a scholarship. "I thought it would change her life. I thought it would mean she wouldn't have to be a farmer."
In China, the impact of a death is compounded by the country's one-child policy, which places greater stress on childless parents in old age.
China Radio International hastens to add that in 2011, of the country's 20 million students, 40 are reported to have committed suicide. Comparatively, China's average suicide rate is around 23 per 100,000 people -- or a jaw-dropping one person every two minutes.
Which is not to say there isn't a problem: 40 percent of Chinese students report having considered suicide, with a Shanghai Education Commission study concluding it was the No. 1 cause of death for students in the city in 2009 and 2010.