The death of a pink-haired Chinese woman has sparked a campaign to combat cyberbullying across China.
Zheng Linghua, 23, became a victim of cyberbullying in July 2022 after she posted photos and videos of herself proudly sharing her acceptance letter to graduate school with her bedridden grandfather, who had been hospitalized for nine months.
In the comments of her videos shared on China’s social media platforms such as Douyin, Weibo and Xiaohongshu, cyberbullies made fun of her because of her dyed pink hair.
Zheng was described as a “nightclub girl” by bullies who linked her pink hair to prostitution. Some online users also spread rumors that suggested a romantic relationship between her and her grandfather.
Although Zheng initially reacted with positivity, she was diagnosed with depression in July last year.
She reportedly suffered from sleeping and eating disorders. Although she was initially able to recover from the depression, she suffered a relapse three months later.
On Jan. 23, Zheng died by suicide after a six-month battle against cyberbullies.
Zheng was looking forward to starting graduate school at East China Normal University. She dreamed of becoming a music teacher.
Following her death, a campaign named “PinkUp” emerged online to combat cyberbullying in China.
The online user who started the campaign reportedly asked people to dye their hair pink.
“Pink is not a crime, violence is,” the user said. “Let’s make pink the color that represents the fight against cyberbullying.”
The incident has also prompted other social media users to call for better legislation to combat and punish cyberbullying.
“Today it’s about hair color. Will it be dresses tomorrow? The day after that, will it be ear piercings? And then what? Will Chinese women also have to cover themselves in black cloth?” a Weibo user wrote.
If you or anyone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. For a list of international suicide hotlines, click here.