Haigui (海归) – Overseas Returnee: People returned to their home country (China) after finishing overseas study, mostly in order to start enterprises. This term is quite popular in mainland China. Because Haigui (海归) has the same pronunciation as “sea turtle” (海龟), therefore the use of “sea turtle” also referred to this group of people.
(originally from Southern Metropolis Daily, but the link is dead now, here is a copy)
“At this moment, I think my original decision was made too rashly and I have never expected what had happened afterwards. I would like to thank friends for the advice before everything. The reality of the China’s academic circles: cruel, faithless and heartless, although I overlooked all of these because of my self-righteousness.”
No one knew how Dr. Tu went from 3rd floor to 11th floor and leaped. This 32-year-old overseas returnee just returned to China from Chicago, United Sates in June this year. Before his return, his tragedy had no signs, as if a bright future was waiting for him.
However on September 17th 2 am, after written a 6 page suicide note, he walked on top of the Zhejiang University Comprehensive Building where he lived. His unemployed wife and 3-year-old child should have been asleep, not knowing the disaster was about to happen.
One thing for sure, during the time when Dr. Tu was teaching at Zhejiang University, almost nobody expected his unnatural death. According to the information provided by Zhejiang University, he just submitted the application applying for the title of associate professor 6 days before his leap.
From Chicago to Hangzhou
1977, Tu Xuxin (涂序新) was born in an intellectual family. From his childhood to his young adult life, he was always the top of his peers. After graduated from high school, he was sent to Tsinghua University Irrigation department. Before “9/11” he got his visa and a full scholarship to Northwestern University in U.S. studying civil engineering. 6 years later he earned his PhD and stayed in school for 2 more years of postdoctoral research.
According to information provided by Zhejiang University, Tu Xuxin contacted the University geotechnical institute via email in January. In April of this year, Zhejiang University sent the recruitment notice to Dr. Tu. In Zhejiang University’s email, guaranteed Dr. Tu a teaching position but the specific title was not clear.
Early in June, Dr. Tu finished his postdoctoral work early at Northwestern University and returned to China. He told his wife Hejing (何晶, not her real name) that there were projects waiting for him in China.
Hejing was also a PhD recipient in the United Sates. She went to a well-known university in northern China for business related major. After graduated from college, she followed her husband to United States. She also got a full scholarship and earned her PhD degree. People who know Tu said, Dr. Tu was a loyal son, his sister’s family lives in Hangzhou, parents are in Jinghua, going back to Hangzhou was his first choice. Everything was as if going towards the right direction. Their daughter was taking care of by the wife Hejing’s parents in Jinghua. A family of three could be reunited in Hangzhou.
Dr. Tu was one of the 1000 academic cores introduced to the “1311 Plan”, his monthly income was 2,000 yuan (about 295 US dollars) after deduction of rent.
The head of Zhejiang University Party Committee’s Propaganda Department Shen Wenhua (沈文华) told the reporter, Zhejiang University “1311 Plan”, is to build a structured innovation team, the composition of this team is 100 “Masters”, 300 core personnel, 100 innovation team and 1000 academic cores. He added that “masters” might be an inaccurate title, but they are at least at the head professor level. Core personnel are professors already have accomplishments, and Dr. Tu was one of the 1000 academic cores. There were thousands of professors in Zhejiang University but not every professor can be part of the academic cores. In other words, he felt that the Institute of Technology valued Dr. Tu’s academics very much.
Dr. Tu returning China has its historical background. Last century “sent by the state” was replaced with scholarships. The most top-notch group of students went abroad armed with GRE red books to the United States, Britain, Germany in this order became the top choices of students. Dr. Tu went to Northwestern University, one of the U. S. elites, located near Lake Michigan in Chicago, also has campuses in Chicago downtown area.
After the abroad wave, in recent years, China’s returnee wave was shaped up. Ministry of Education data showed that in 2004 there were more than 20,000 returnees, in 2006 more than 40,000 students returned to the mainland China. In 2008, with the global financial crisis, this figure broke over 50,000.
Working in universities or research institutes is an important tributary for the returnees. Ten years ago, with quite a few returnees who graduated from a prestigious school in the U.S. going into a Chinese well-known institution, the starting title was already professor. However now days, the market condition is not so good anymore.
Schools should take the initiative to “build the nest” to attract the returnees, mainly targeting the overseas senior scholars who have teaching credentials. For example, in Zhejiang University Zijing campus dormitory area, there were hundreds of houses which were not sold or distributed yet. But, Zhejiang University said those were prepared for the “masters”.
Young people need a development process, Shen Wenhua said, it’s not like once come in school and able to take a leading role right the way. The higher the qualifications are, the more resources one shall have.
Although when Dr. Tu was talking to his Chicago friends, already foresaw the difficulties. However, the difficulties seemed much more than he imagined.
Dr. Tu did not get a project right the way as he expected after his return. In June he returned to his home town in Jinhua, Zhejiang and rested for some time.
In July, Dr. Tu went back to Hangzhou, on the 28th he rented the teacher’s apartment provided by Zhejiang University. School information indicated that Dr. Tu’s apartment was 57 square meters. Later in Dr. Tu’s obituary also mentioned this apartment, “including an independent kitchen and bathroom, also TV, refrigerators, air conditioners, microwave oven, induction cooker, beds, tables, chairs and other furniture and electronics.”
This is the comprehensive building Dr. Tu lived for 2 month then leaped from the top of it. It is located across the street from Zhejiang University Yuquan Campus entrance, one of the last century late 90s buildings. From the simple but fairly clean hallway, you can see the old campus, lush trees created shades, spirited students walked around, banners of academic exchange were hanging all over the campus.
There is a long hallway on each floor of the comprehensive building. The ones that are side by side are transition housing for the young teachers. Building area is 50-60 square meters, the inside area is about 40 square meters, just like three lined-up matchboxes, respectively, from outside to inside, the kitchen, living room and bedroom. Zhejiang University Personnel staff told the reporter, the monthly rent for the apartment is 2,000 yuan, slightly lower than market price. It was deducted from his wages. They said Dr. Tu used to live some other place before moving to here.
Zhejiang University Deputy Director in charge of personnel, Zhu Xiaoyun (朱晓芸) told the reporter that the Dr. Tu’s compensation was given as a lecturer. Also gave him 40,000 yuan housing allowance, to support him to buy a house in Hangzhou, to settle down. This was the special treatment Zhejiang University provided for to attract talents. In addition Dr. Tu also had all the benefits of a university faculty, including 10 years in Zhejiang University to receive 1,500 yuan per month in housing allowance. If Dr. Tu becomes a professor in the future, this number will double. His income also includes 1,000 yuan allowance for young teachers, the monthly salary by the state and school subsidies. His monthly income should have been enough for him to teach at ease.
However this may be only an ideal opinion, Dr. Tu’s daughter soon will be in kindergarten, and now days kindergarten in major cities in mainland China could be costly, more expensive then elementary school. Dr. Tu’s wife Hejing also had not been successful. She could not stay in Hangzhou, lived in hometown taking care of the daughter while looking for work. The fact is Dr. Tu has an entire family on his shoulders.
Although the husband and wife were all students studied aboard with full scholarship in the United States, but they had a child to support, they were not able to save a considerable amount of money in the foreign country, no enough to serve as a buffer for their returns.
And in so called heaven on earth – Hangzhou, housing prices are no less than in Shanghai. Although the new campus of Zhejiang University, Zijin is not a favored area, the price per square meter was still almost equal to 20,000 yuan.
According to his relatives, he told the family that his wage was paid as an associate professor.
Before Dr. Tu’s accident, his work was still carried out step by step, he served as the 2009 freshmen class teacher. However, people did not know, since August, he started to have anxiety, and began to take drugs to help him sleep.
And nobody knew where Dr. Tu’s anxiety came from. Since he moved to comprehensive building, most of the time he stayed alone.
One thing is for sure, even with anxiety, Dr. Tu did not give up. According to school records:
September 1 – 8, Dr. Tu went to the job training for new teachers.
September 8, Zhejiang University started the second half of professional and technical positions audits.
September 11, Dr. Tu filled out his relevant information on the “Professional and technical positions hiring system” applying for associate professor position.
At least, he still had hope.
That was then. 6 days later, which was at 2 am on September 17, Dr. Tu jumped from the 11th floor roof. He wrote a 6 page suicide note, in the note he expressed regrets to his wife, daughter, parents and sister.
The night before, Hejing and her husband also talked over the phone, she was going to go see him the next morning.
Dr. Tu’s academic potential has been recognized. If you use Google scholar to search his published 6 papers. Of which three made to the core journals in the SCI. Tu’s research focused on the geotechnical engineering field calculation methods and models. He should have had broad prospects in the developing China.
Professional Title and Jumping of a building
Rumors on the internet said Zhejiang University gave Dr. Tu verbal commitments but failed to fulfill with actions. However school disagreed.
What did Dr. Tu experience from September 11 applying for an associate professor position to September 17 jumping off a building at the end?
His death was originally handled by Zhejiang University, Yuquan campus police station. Reporter contacted person in charge at Hangzhou public security bureau, the district branch of the political department. He said two days later the police talked to his friends, relatives, neighbors and school and ruled out the possibility of homicide.
The end of September, School website posted an obituary of Dr. Tu, explained the cause of death was “due to illness Dr. Tu fell to his death from a building” But school did not explain why “illness” and “falling from a building” were tied together. Netizens also responded heavily on this obituary, read more here.
After Dr. Tu’s death, all kinds of speculations on the internet were still fermenting. Some blamed school, some blamed family and some attributed to Dr. Tu’s psychological issues. People stood in their different point of views and guessed. Most of the rumors on the internet said Zhejiang University gave Dr. Tu verbal commitments but failed to fulfill with actions.
Chief of Construction Institute party and government office Jing Weiyong (金卫勇) told the reporter that after the incident, they looked through the emails between Dr. Tu and school. In the emails he was always referred as “teacher” not “Associate Professor”.
The School denied the possible link between Dr. Tu’s death and the evaluation process, said early September was just applying period, faculty of engineering has not released documents confirming the selection criteria.
Dr. Tu’s 6 page suicide note was never released to the public, we only know one this one passage from the note “At this moment, I think my original decision was made too rashly and I have never expected what had happened afterwards. I would like to thank friends for the advice before everything. The reality of the China’s academic circles: cruel, faithless and heartless, although I overlooked all of these because of my self-righteousness.”