Tales of indebted students being driven to suicide have become commonplace in China in recent years, sparking public outrage. Samantha Vadas reports.
Last year, Fan Zeyi drowned himself. At 20-years-old, he owed nearly $20,000 to internet loan sharks after borrowing just $150. Similar stories are becoming ever more common in China where a surge in violent online lending has resulted in a spate of suicides. bizrep The groups specifically target materialistic students who often want money for the latest laptops or smartphones. Chen Ke fell into debt last year. He borrowed $1500 to buy an iPhone 6s and now owes more than $30,000. (SOUNDBITE) (Mandarin) STUDENT IN DEBT, CHEN KE, SAYING: "The platform takes 20 percent, then the agents also take a fee. If I don't pay on time, they'll threaten me." Late payment penalties can hit 500% per year and many students are forced to submit nude photos with their ID cards as collateral, risking humiliation if the sharks don't get their money. There are also reports of young people being tied up and beaten by thugs. This threatening message was recovered from Fan Zeyi's phone after he drowned himself. It's read out by his cousin. (SOUNDBITE) (Mandarin) FAN ZEYI'S COUSIN, WHO DID NOT WANT TO GIVE HIS NAME, SAYING: "The new semester is about to start, I'll come to the campus and get you, repay your debts, don't make me come and find you." The Chinese government is trying to crack down these online lenders and has suspended them from extending new loans. But with many debts yet to be paid there are fears the sharks will strike again.