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Education, a gift for life

  • Written by Renee
altAs foreigners living in Nanjing most of us feel safe, secure and untouchable. But what if your heightened sense of security abruptly came to a halt? Would you stay, or would you go? This was the question that haunted the minds of foreigners in Nanjing ten years ago. Renee Gray tells the story of the Pfrang family, and the legacy they left behind. alt{xtypo_dropcap}A{/xtypo_dropcap}s foreigners living in Nanjing most feel safe, secure and untouchable. But what would you do if your heightened sense of security in this city abruptly came to a halt: would you stay, or would you go?

This was the question that haunted the minds of foreigners in Nanjing ten years ago, when something horrible shook this seemingly angelic town to its core, causing heartache, devastation and fear among both the Chinese and the foreign communities in Nanjing.

Sandra, Thorsten, Petra and Jurgen Pfrang were an expat family from Germany, who were working and living in Nanjing. Jurgen Hermann Pfrang was the deputy General Manager of Yaxing Benz Ltd., a Sino-German joint venture bus manufacturer based in Yangzhou City, Jiangsu Province.

He and his family had been living in Nanjing for quite some time and considered the city their home, happily set on spending the rest of their lives here.

Tragedy

On April 1st 2000, four desperate Chinese boys aged 18-23, broke into the Pfrang’s neighboring house. Finding that house was under renovation, the boys then climbed across the fence into the Pfrang house. Jürgen Pfrang came across them and the scene erupted into a wild stabbing. Petra and the children became involved, and all four were stabbed repeatedly.

The security guards at the compound became aware of the situation when one of the boys tried to flee the scene. They surrounded the house and called the police. By the time the police entered the house, all four family members had been stabbed to death.

The Intermediate People's Court in Nanjing sentenced all four jobless youths to the death penalty. Some 300 people attended the open trial, which was conducted on May 19th and 20th 2000. Sentencing was carried out on the 21st. The four accused (Zhong Weiyang, Liu Guangyuan, Ding Shanyang, and Zhang Eryang) were all from Shuyang County, Jiangsu Province.

The Chinese government later sent officials to most of the German and international businesses in the city, in order to "apologize". On the 19th of May, BBC news released an article stating, “The crime - said to be one of the worst acts of violence against foreigners in modern China - shocked the expatriate community. The country is regarded as relatively safe for foreigners. Chinese authorities have voiced concern about the effects on foreign investment.”

Legacy

alt10 years on, I spoke with Julia Guesten, a German mother of two. She has been living in China since 1992, and has been a resident of Nanjing since 1996. Julia works for the German state of Baden-Württemberg,

“We were completely shocked. Disbelief, horror, sorrow, helplessness... And of course many were afraid. Our world as we had known it had collapsed. Everyone had felt very safe in China and in Nanjing. Maybe even too much so. All the compounds heightened their security with cameras and infrared systems. Many people had bars installed on their windows.

All the systems that were installed then are still in place. But I think today most foreigners still feel very safe here, compared to most countries. But, we also live in a bubble, because we do not read the daily press. If you read the papers and read about burglaries and attacks – which occur in Nanjing on a daily basis – you become more aware of dangers.”

In the wake of the murders, Julia (with the help of other foreigners in Nanjing) helped set up the Pfrang association.

The Pfrang Association was established in November 2000 in dedication to the Pfrang family, inspired by the desire to keep their memories alive. Since the city of Nanjing was the home of the family for many years, and their lives and work intertwined with the life of people in Nanjing and Jiangsu Province, the Association is based here. It aims to help overcome social inequality, and thereby tries to break the cycle of poverty, lack of education, and crime.

Education: a gift for life

{typography box_white right=300px}10th annual Pfrang Charity Gala

On the 24th of April 2010, the Pfrang association will be hosting their 10th annual charity gala at Nanjing International School. All proceeds will go towards the Pfrang association.

For more information about the Pfrang Association or ways to make a donation please visit www.pfrang-association.org, or check out the Pfrang Wikipedia page.{/typography} Together with the Amity Foundation, the Pfrang Association has identified and contacted a range of schools in Lianshui and Guanyun (counties in northern Jiangsu Province) that offer impoverished children a full nine years of education, various scholarships and tuition fees.

The setup guarantees that all funds raised by donations are used exclusively to pay the fees for children who would otherwise never finish their school education. The Pfrang Association’s selection criteria ensures that sponsorships reach the neediest, while monitoring makes sure that both these criteria and certain standards are met along the way.

In November 2004 the number of students sponsored by the Pfrang Association with the support of donors was 166. By the summer semester of 2007 they were able to send 250 students to school.

Julia and the Pfrang association hope to change the face of poverty to ensure that the devastating and unfortunate events like the murder of the Pfrang family can never happen again, through offering education and support.

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