Five bears suffer sulphuric acid attack

Shanghai Star. 2002-02-28

Stupid, brutal behaviour heaps humiliating insults on Tsinghua intelligence
Experts from Beijing Jishuitan Hospital treat a bear for serious burns on February 25 after an alleged attack by a Tsinghua University student. The bear is still in critical condition.

"I wanted to test whether or not they really are stupid ... I was just curious about the information that I read in the book, I didn't mean to hurt them. I honestly like animals."Liu Haiyang

AIMING to prove that bears have a keen sense of smell, a student from Tsinghua University poured liquid containing sulphuric acid to bears at the Beijing Zoo, according to the Beijing-based Jinghua Times.

On the afternoon of February 23, people were gathered to watch and feed the bears at the zoo as usual. Suddenly at 1:10pm, two bears fell to the ground with water flowing from their mouths, while crying out in pain. Witnesses also reported seeing white smoke rising from the ground.

Electromechanical major Liu Haiyang, 21, a senior student at Tsinghua University, often called China's equivalent of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the United States, has been accused of attacking the bears, as witnesses said he was seen throwing acid from a bottle onto the animals.

The two black bears were found to have sustained injuries to four limbs. One animal was continuously rubbing its eyes.

"It is the worst tragedy that has ever happened to the animals in our zoo," said Wang Baoqiang, deputy director of the zoo in charge of treating the bears.

So far this year, a total of five bears have been injured by chemical liquid. The first incident occurred on January 29, when a student allegedly splashed a mixture of water and caustic soda on two bears.

On February 5, another bear was found with strange burns from a chemical solution. Zoo security was immediately tightened.

Wang said, two injured bears are now in critical condition.

One is suffering from blindness and is unable to eat due to the serious nature of the burns to its tongue and upper jaw. Another bear suffered serious burns to its legs and chest, resulting in festering wounds and fever.

The three others are on the road to recovery. Two of them are again receiving visitors to the zoo.

Liu, the young suspect, said he didn't realize that his actions would have such serious results. He claims he once read that bears have a keen sense of smell that can differentiate many substances.

He said his "curiosity" lead him to visit the bears on two occasion to experiment with substances. After successfully fleeing the first time, Liu decided to try again.

"I wanted to test whether or not they really are stupid," Xinhua quoted him as saying.

According to Beijing Television, Liu told police: "I was just curious about the information that I read in the book, I didn't mean to hurt them. I honestly like animals."

Liu is being detained in the Xicheng Public Security Bureau. But police said they are still not sure if he intended to injure the animal.

Liu's classmate told local media that Liu studied very hard and was recommended as a graduate student by the department. He didn't have any pressure to look for a job.

Liu's mother who is a retired worker said she felt heartbroken for his son. But she didn't say anything about the possible reason for the incidence.

Under the law, anyone illegally hunting or killing wildlife protected by the State faces a sentence of up to five years in prison, as well as fines. In serious cases, the sentence can exceed five years.

But a lawyer has argued that Liu's actions appear abnormal, and perhaps he is suffering some mental problem. If Liu is determined to suffer such a problem, he will not be able to be held criminally responsible for his actions. However he will still face civil charges, said experts.

The zoo now plans to strengthen patrols and inspections, and clamp down on visitors feeding animals.

"Animals have suffered too much from visitors' bad habits," Wang said.

Copyright by Shanghai Star.