1. Lin Yi-Han, a 26-year-old author from Tainan, Taiwan, has become the center of a national controversy after she committed suicide last month.
Lin had just published a novel about the sexual grooming and rape of a young girl by her middle-aged teacher. In the days following Lin’s death, her family released a statement alleging the events in Lin’s novel weren’t actually fiction, but instead the true details of the sexual abuse that led Lin to take her own life.
Her family’s accusations of sexual abuse inspired a full-on social media manhunt for the man that inspired Lin’s novel. Taiwanese social media users, as well as a Taiwanese legislator, are now accusing a nationally recognized teacher who had previously taught Lin as the man at the center of her book. And while the police are investigating, they haven’t named any suspects yet.
Amidst this whole controversy are huge questions about consent, mental illness, and rape culture in Taiwan.
2. In February, Lin published her first novel, Fang Si-Chi’s First Love Paradise.
The book tells the story of a 13-year-old student Fang Si-chi, who is raped by her 50-something-year-old cram school teacher.
Cram schools – known as buxiban in Mandarin Chinese – are private, supplementary, after school classes that students in East Asia attend to improve their competitiveness.
The novel describes Fang as a bright student who looks up to and eventually falls in love with the teacher, “because Mr. Lee turned her over and put his thing in.”
3. The book was an immediate bestseller, and Lin gave several interviews summarizing it as “the story of a teacher, who has long used his status as a teacher to seduce, rape, and sexually abuse female students.”
4. In Lin’s final interview, the author said that “Mr. Lee” was based on a teacher she knew in real life, and that “the biggest massacre in the history of mankind is the rape of Fang Si-chi.”
Lin added that she was sure that incidents like this will continue to happen, and that they were happening at that moment.
5. Lin was found dead in her bedroom by her husband a week later, on the morning of April 27. Police say that a suicide note was found at the scene.
Authorities have ruled out foul play, according to Taiwan’s Central News Agency.
Lin had previously tried to take her own life several times and openly discussed her struggle with depression on her Facebook page.
6. The news went viral on Taiwanese social media.
“Is this news real?? So hard to believe.”
“RIP. I can’t imagine the pain that she has suffered. I hope she is free now. Mourning for her family!”
8. The day after her death, Lin’s parents released a statement via her publisher, saying Fang Si-chi’s First Love Paradise is a truthful record of their daughter’s experiences.
9. “The pain experienced by our daughter, the demons she faced, and the reason she can’t be cured, was not due to depression, but from when she was seduced 8 to 9 years ago,” they wrote.
Thank you for your sympathy. We as a couple have some things we’d like to share.
(1) The pain experienced by our daughter, the demons she faced, and the reason she can’t be cured, was not due to depression, but from when she was seduced 8 to 9 years ago.
(2) Fang Si-chi’s First Love Paradise is a truthful record and reflection of the pain and depression our daughter experienced after she was seduced by a famous cram school teacher when she was younger.
(3) The characters in the novel – the main character Si-chi, and other characters Xiao-chi and Yi-ting, are all actual embodiments of encounters experienced by our daughter. But in order to protect her parents and family, she decided to separate her experience into different characters.
(4) She wrote this book in the hopes that there will not be another Fang Si-chi, in the hopes that the world’s parents, boys, girls and men, will protect the Fang Si-chis of this world with gentleness and warmth.
(5) Our child has left us, and we will never again hear her call us “daddy and mommy,” but we hope that everyone will remember her fondly.
(6) And lastly, if you feel saddened by the loss of our daughter, please share our thoughts with every single person in Taiwan – via Facebook, Line, Instagram – and buy our daughter’s book for every parent or child who needs it! With thousands of thanks!
Lin Bing-huang and Lai Jia-fang
April 28, 2017, early morning
Lin’s parents sent a separate statement sent to a group chat on messaging app LINE asking members of the LINE group to share their message with others.
Based on Lin’s parents’ statement, the Tainan City Government launched an investigation into whether a cram school teacher had indeed violated the Sexual Assault Crime Prevention Act.
10. News of Lin’s suicide — and her parents’ subsequent statements — set off an online manhunt for the real-life identity of the teacher her book was based on.
“I already knew that such a realistic piece of work must have come from personal experience…. Or else it would not leave such a deep impression, nor be filled with such pain… Everyone please don’t blame the victim and her family. It’s a painful thing to exposure trauma and reveal the truth to everyone. We cannot know their pain.
We should strongly condemn and stop those who have wrong all the Fang Si-chi and caused them so much pain!!!! There should not be another Fang Si-chi!!! We also should not question any Fang Si-chi!!!”
“We should find this sick teacher, and make him face public and judicial trial!”
13. The day after Lin’s suicide, people across Taiwanese social media began alleging that the character of “Mr. Lee” was actually based on Lin’s Chinese teacher, a famous cram school instructor named Chen Hsing.
14. People on Taiwan’s version of Reddit, PTT, created a “Chen-Hsing” board to discuss the allegations against Chen.
15. PTT users noticed that after Chen was branded the “pervert teacher” on social media, he canceled all of his classes. Several cram schools Chen taught at also quietly removed his name from their branding and websites.
One of the cram schools announced that all of Chen’s classes had been canceled and that students had been informed. They declined to comment further when contacted by local outlet Apple Daily.
16. As the social media frenzy was kicking in full gear, a local legislator from Kaohsiung, Xiao Yong-da, publicly accused Chen, as well.
The legislator said that Chen’s real name was Chen Guo-hsing and said Chen had been teaching at several schools under various pseudonyms, which are common for famous cram school teachers. Xiao swore on his career and said he would step down and not run for election if he was wrong about Chen.
17. Comments also surfaced on PTT accusing Chen of faking his master’s degree.
Chen had previously said he got his degree from Kaohsiung’s National Sun Yat-Sen University’s language research institute.
But a spokesperson for the university told Apple Daily that Chen was accepted to the university’s Chinese literature program in 2006, but deferred for two years. After he still did not show in 2008, the university dropped him out.
The spokesperson added that the university did not have a language research institute, and that Chen was accepted to the master’s course in the department of Chinese Literature, but “did not attend one day of class.”
18. On May 9, Chen finally addressed the allegations and released a public statement through his lawyers, denying that he and Lin had a teacher-student relationship.
Chen said he had taught Lin in February 2009. He said that he did not start to date her until August 2009, when she was 18 and he was no longer her teacher. He said the couple were forced to end their relationship after two months because her parents objected and because he is married. Chen also said the contents of Lin’s book were not based on true events, and denied having anything to do with Lin’s depression.
Making things even stranger, local media has been unable to identify who Chen’s lawyers are and he has been unreachable since delivering his statement.
19. The police investigation into whether Lin was abused by a cram school teacher is still ongoing, but an official suspect has yet to actually be named.
Also, several city governments in Taiwan have since announced stricter laws regarding the screening and hiring of cram school teachers.
All cram school teachers are now required to register with their legal names, and cram schools have to list the teachers’ real names alongside their pseudonyms on advertising.
BuzzFeed News reached out to Lin’s family and her publishers. Local police said they didn’t immediately have a comment.
20. Nevertheless, threads about the controversy continue to pop up all over PTT, with people talking about suicide, cram schools, and rape culture.
“Question: Why is the Lin Yi-Han incident important?”
22. It has also inspired other women to come forward to share their own experiences with sexual harassment and abuse.
“I don’t know if the contents of the book are true, but my heart aches for every single woman who has been raped. There are a lot of men on the Gossiping board, but not a lot of women, so a lot of people don’t understand the various types of perverts girls meet when they are growing up. It’s not that you have to be pretty for perverts to approach you, but pretty women will meet more perverts.
I was on the bus in grade six. It was just me, my older sister and a 60-plus-year-old old man. Before he got on the bus, he purposefully bumped into me and touched my arm, and even told me ‘little girl, you are so pretty.’ I was shocked. I felt really uncomfortable, but my teacher told me that if elders told me I was pretty, I should still thank them.
It was an old bus, with seats down the left and right sides. The bus was very empty, and he kept coming closer and closer to me, so all I could do was keep switching seats.
Switching until I got off the bus.
I was only 11 years old.”
23. And it created a massive conversation about consent in Taiwan.
“I support you! Even if one victim comes forward that is enough.”
“Thank you for telling us your story, you are very brave!”
“Come forward! Don’t tolerate this!”
“I support you! You are great!”
“Thank you for coming forward”