The Chinese Embassy in Ottawa has warned citizens living or travelling in Canada to "strengthen their personal security" after the gruesome killing and dismemberment of a Chinese student living in Montreal.
The warning was posted to the Embassy's website in Chinese on Friday, but left out of its English and French statements on the homicide. It comes amid growing discussion in China of whether Canada remains a safe place to travel and study.
The grisly murder of Concordia University computer science student Lin Jun, allegedly at the hands of fugitive Luka Rocca Magnotta, has provoked widespread shock and anger in China, where many believe the crime was racially motivated. It was the second killing of a Chinese student in Canada in just over a year, following last April's murder of York University student Liu Qian, part of which was watched on Skype by her boyfriend back in China.
A friend of Mr. Lin's family said his mother had initially been in denial about her son's murder, and told people as recently as Saturday that the stories could not be true because she had just spoken to her son. By Sunday, however, the working-class family appeared to have accepted the bad news and was travelling to Beijing from their hometown in Hubei province. It's believed they will now head to Montreal to collect their son's remains.
Mr. Lin's death now dominates Internet discussion in China – his personal account on Weibo (a popular Chinese social-networking site) was the most searched-for page on the sina.com web portal. The No. 2 search was for the latest news of the case.
"The Chinese Embassy in Canada reminds Chinese citizens traveling in Canada, as well as students and the staff of Chinese organizations in Canada, to improve their self-protection [and] awareness, and to strengthen their personal security," reads the final paragraph of the Embassy's Chinese-language statement on Mr. Lin's murder, which called condemned the "heinous criminal act." A similar warning was posted on the webpage of the Chinese consulate in Montreal.
The Canadian Embassy in Beijing, meanwhile, posted a brief statement on its own Weibo account reporting that Foreign Minister John Baird had called Chinese Ambassador Zhang Junsai to express his "deepest condolences" over the killing.
That did little to mollify the Chinese Internet users who replied with anger and disbelief.
"I heard of the murder of friend's relative in Canada before, now there is this other case ... can people go to this place?" wrote one Internet user from central Henan province, in reply to the Canadian Embassy statement. The author was one of many who raised questions over how safe Canada really is, a worry that could pose a particular threat to Canadian universities, which were already in damage-control mode in China in the wake of Ms. Liu's murder.
"The impact of the case will be very bad on Canada," Meng Xiaochao, the boyfriend who witnessed the attack on Ms. Liu, said in an interview. "Last year when Liu Qian's case happened, many parents said they were no longer willing to send their children to Canada. Now here comes this other case."
More than 50,000 Chinese students currently live and study in Canada. Like all foreign students, they pay higher tuition than their Canadian-born classmates, making them highly sought-after by cash-strapped universities. Another 242,000 Chinese came to Canada as tourists last year, a number the travel industry had been hoping would increase by as much as one-fifth this year.
Hamilton's Mohawk College was concerned enough about the impact the case could have on its bottom line that it intervened in the debate on the Canadian Embassy page with a Chinese-language posting that pleaded "please believe [us], Canada is a country with good public security protection. Canadians are very friendly. This individual case is not big enough to influence the trust between people of China and Canada… [it's a] country worth of the trust of foreign students and parents."
Meanwhile, messages of condolence from Chinese-speakers around world continued to pile up all weekend on Mr. Lin's Weibo account. The photographs and writings on the microblog revealed a 33-year-old with a soft heart but a hint of an darker side – someone who loved his cat and romantic French music, but who was also prone to bouts of narcissism and self-loathing.
The account had more than 20,000 comments on it by Sunday. "I've read through all your [postings] and looked at your last photograph. This is very hard to accept," wrote one netizen from coastal Zhejiang province. "The next generation does not need to go to Canada. China is big and warm."