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I know, I know, I said I was writing again. Then I didn’t write anything on here for ages and ages. It’s not because I stopped writing, it’s because I’ve been writing so much for other people that I haven’t had the time and I’ll admit the inclination to update Shards of China.

It’s all too easy for outsiders to get carried away with the economy and skirt over the real issues of modern China.

I’ve also been wondering how to deal with the subject of this post. It’s because it deals with a rather touchy subject – suicide. The World Health Organisation estimates that 1 in 4 global suicides occurs in China. That means China is a world leader in self-destruction. Even given its huge population this is rather more than its fair share of suicide. It’s is the fifth leading cause of death in China.

To try and put this into a perspective you can relate to. Every two minutes a man or a woman in China will take their own life. That’s 30 people in an hour, 720 in a day, and over 20,000 in a month.

What’s interesting to consider is that China’s is also the least religious nation on earth. This is in part due to the threat posed by religion to the party, but also because Confucianism isn’t really a religion in the way we understand it. Confucianism is more of a set of guidelines for managing your life by, a tool (like many other beliefs) for societal constraint. However, unlike most religions Confucianism is unusual in that – there’s no heaven, no hell, and no reincarnation. Once you’re dead, you’re really dead. There’s no hope of a return or progression to another plane.

I apologise for using these rather shocking images – taken from Chinese media. However these people are the lucky ones, those who were prevented from taking their own lives despite their attempts to do so. It’s difficult to face the realities of suicide on a nation. It’s well understood that many Chinese will use the threat of suicide (rather more brazenly than in the West) in order to garner attention to themselves. This can lead to the genuine “cry for help” being completely ignored as too many Chinese people have heard a friend or friends “cry wolf” in the past. In my time in Shenzhen, at least 3 people have jumped from the windows of our apartment complex. All of them were fatally injured or died on impact with the ground.

I don’t raise this point to mock religions but rather to highlight the desperation someone must feel without the hope of redemption or a second chance to live, to commit suicide.

You’re probably asking at this point, why this is sitting in the gender section – rather than say the “horribly depressing facts about China that most of us would prefer to ignore” theme instead. It’s because there’s one other startling fact about the Chinese suicide rate. China is the only country in the world in which more women kill themselves than men (according to the WHO). In fact in young women, suicide is the leading cause of death in the country. 56% of all the world’s female suicides are Chinese.

This diagram shows how organophosphates are metabolised.

The method these ladies choose to end their lives is a shocking one. Nearly 62% of the women who kill themselves do so by drinking weed killer or pesticide. This is because the majority of suicides (3 out of 4) take place in rural communities where the closest poison to hand is likely to be an organophosphate. This is a deeply unpleasant way to end your life, and it can leave those who choose this method writhing in agony for up to 2 hours before they pass away. The really bad news is that even if someone is taken to hospital in time to save their life, the pesticide will almost certainly cause permanent neurological damage.

The editor of China’s “Rural Women” magazine estimates that 70% of these suicides are caused by domestic “strife”. A polite euphemism for marital abuse.

Female suicide is the most acute symptom of China’s gender crisis. Women trapped in poverty in rural China with abusive husbands, are the most likely in the world to choose to take their own lives.

Is it any wonder that so many are choosing to leave their homes, and head to the cities for a chance at a factory job and some form of independence?