'Blue Whale' suicide game triggers panic in China

A dangerous suicide game called "Blue Whale", which has been reportedly responsible for deaths of more than 130 youngsters in Russia, is triggering public panic in China, with the establishment of a great many online chat groups linked to the suicide game.

The "Blue Whale" suicide game is supposed to be an online social media group, which sees putting its members up to suicide as its ultimate goal. Normally, the head of a "Blue Whale" group assigns horrific daily tasks including waking up at 4:20 am, watching horror films and self-mutilation for 50 days before instigating the group members to commit suicide.

Joint efforts to hunt 'Blue Whale'

The online craze has attracted vigilance from Chinese authorities, who have tightened online surveillance to prevent the "Blue Whale" suicide game from spreading in the country and has ordered Internet companies including Tencent and Baidu to block online chat groups and forum discussions with keywords linked to the suicide game.

The security team of QQ, a popular instant messaging app owned by Tencent, started a clean-up campaign on May 9 to root out online chat groups related to the "Blue Whale" suicide game, after a number of domestic media organizations issued a warning against the danger of the game.

The Chinese Communist Youth League reveled on May 9 on its official account on Sina Weibo, the Chinese equivalent to Twitter, the launch of a campaign named "Project Whale Hunt". "Why are you locking yourself under the deep sea? You can fly in the open skies! 'Project Whale Hunt' has begun...," the Chinese Communist Youth League said in the post in hope of getting those teenagers addicted to the "Blue Whale" suicide game back to normal life.

On May 17, a 17-year-old student from Zhanjiang in southern China's Guangdong province was arrested for allegedly running an online chat group to encourage the members to do self-harm and commit suicide through the "Blue Whale" suicide game. The teenager surnamed Xu has been charged with "spreading extremism", according to media reports.

Dangers still exist

Despite the efforts to combat the "Blue Whale" suicide game, some online chat groups related to the game have still survived the sweeping crackdown.

Chen Nuan is a victim of the QQ "Blue Whale" suicide game group called "F57". The 17-year-old girl said she had accepted self-harm tasks for seven days when the Sino-US.com contacted her online.

"No one forced me to carve the pattern of blue whale with knife on my body," she told the Sino-US.com.

Chen seems to be an alien among her peers in real life, and describes herself as a misanthropist, a tendency that leads to her self-abasement and self-harm behavior.

"I am an ugly girl with a poor academic record. Nobody loves me," she said. Always sitting in the last row of the classroom, she has been humiliated by her classmates who called her "ghost".

"During the daytime, I behave as a normal people, attending the class and going home on time. But at night, I always feel that there is a dog in my heart barking crazily. I do not know how to calm it, and the only thing I can do is to use knife and blood to calm myself," Chen said.

Delightedly, some people who called themselves "whale hunters" have entered the "F57" QQ group with a mission to help the group members stop thinking about suicide.

"I have my men in the 'F57' QQ group, and our task is to cleanse the Internet," the head of the so called "whale hunters" told the Sino-US.com.

'Electronic heresy'

The "Blue Whale" suicide game is widely described as "electronic heresy", with the organizer attempting to control people's behaviors through brainwashing and mind control.

A key approach to encourage people to commit suicide is to expose them to negative information. For example, the heads of various "Blue Whale" suicide game groups normally ask the group members to watch horror films regularly or complete a self-harming task every day.

Liu Changsong, a Beijing-based lawyer, said that the organizers of the "Blue Whale" suicide game followed a simple rule of gradually bereaving the game players of the desire for life through mind control.

"Mind control cannot not be simply defined as instigation. It must be achieved through behavior imitation, the negative effect of which will escalate step by step," Zhu Yixi, a psychologist in Shanghai, said, adding that the "Blue Whale" suicide game knows the psychological state of youngsters with psychological problems.

Deepening communication between parents and children is a good way to avoid the tragedy, Zhu said.

The lawyer Liu argued that the government should treat the "Blue Whale" suicide game as they did in dealing with heresy.

"The authorities should keep an eye on the organizers of the 'Blue Whale' suicide game, because they are a group of people with strong anti-social personality," Zhu said.

(Wang Lingyu contributed to this story.)

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