A Tall Tree Cut Down in His Prime – A Father’s Tribute

Xuan Wei, Rest in Peace 轩玮永息

Written By Mr ZHANG Zhong Jin, Translated by Dr Junying Kirk

Xuan Wei, my son. Today we are holding a Farewell and Memorial Service for you at Birmingham City University.

It was an ordinary early evening, a usual shopping trip, but now you have left us for good. You can no longer return to the University, the teachers and your University mates whom you dearly loved. All of us are extremely saddened!

After this incident, your teachers and university mates have stayed with you, looking after you and they have never left your side or given up. The teachers in your University have participated in the whole process of dealing with the aftermath and they have done it very dutifully and competently.

When you were taken to the hospital to try to save your life, your good friend called to inform us. We rushed to Birmingham the very next day to be by your side and we went to see you at the first opportunity. It was then we were determined that we would get justice for you, and make sure that the perpetrator is severely punished.

Through the Internet and Media this unfortunate incident has attracted a massive interest. The Chinese Foreign Ministry and the Chinese Embassy in the UK has paid very close attention and made the case a high priority. The University has done everything it can, helping us to hire very good solicitors and an excellent professional interpreter. It has laid a firm foundation for us to fight for justice.

A Handsome Young Man Who Loved Life and Nature

During our time in the UK, we have received warm concern and wonderful care from the University senior managers, teachers, and students. Through our contact and exchange with your teachers and University friends, we have learned a great deal about you and your life in the UK. In recent years, you have transformed yourself and become more and more mature. Your comprehensive abilities, influences and academic studies have taken great leaps forward, bursting with powerful energy. You have led a group of University mates to work hard and made such great progress and achievement. You also loved your mates dearly and were willing to do things for everyone. This has made us so happy and we are proud of you! You are forever a great son to your Father and Mother.

A Man Full of Dreams for the Future

We feel proud of you! I tell you: I used your password and opened your computer with ease and submitted the draft of your dissertation and relevant experimental photos to your supervisor. In fact, your supervisor had already received your draft. From your supervisor, we learned that this dissertation is of very high quality and it will lead to a lot of experiments. Consequently the University has added more equipment for these experiments and has acquired a great deal of valuable data. We heard from your tutor that your dissertation has achieved distinction and should be awarded a Master’s degree in due course, realizing your dream. In recent months you have been very busy, completely absorbed in doing the experiments, excited and delighted with what you were doing. All this is credit to the concern, education and training from the University, and your hard work.

An Exemplary Student Loved By All

A few days ago, accompanied by the University managers and your supervisor, we specifically visited Millennium Point in BCU, and we know that you especially liked this high-tech comprehensive building. We also know that you completed both your undergraduate and postgraduate courses here. We have visited several classrooms and research rooms which you used to frequent. Your Mother, full of tears, touched this equipment and called out for you. It seemed that we saw the shadows of you while you were studying and doing research, and for a long time we did not want to leave ….

We shall take you back to your Motherland, and before you are about to leave your beloved University, your teachers and your school mates, we, on behalf of you and our whole family, want to say THANK-YOU to the University which has trained you whole-heartedly, to the teachers and students who have helped you.

Xuan Wei, Please rest assured that your Father and Mother will live well!

Xuan Wei, Rest in Peace in Heaven! You will live in our hearts forever!

Translator’s Note: It has been a very distressing experience for me working with the family of a victim of a senseless road accident, when a 24 year-old Xuan Wei ZHANG was knocked down by a speeding unmarked police car when he was on a pedestrian crossing in Birmingham three weeks ago. As soon as this tragic news reached them, his grieving parents, Mr and Mrs Zhang, travelled thousands of miles, all the way from Nanjing, China to the Heart of England, for the very first time, only to see the battered body of their only child, a son who is to graduate with a Master’s degree in June 2012. 

Phone Conversation with the Family Solicitor in Xuan Wei’s Room, with his parents from China

In a strange land, the family has to deal with not just their harrowing grief and emotional hell, but also the whole process of the British legal system of which they have little understanding, and through the language which is completely foreign, yet they are determined to seek justice for their son. Instructed by Birmingham City University, as their interpreter and support, I have spent the recent days with the family, saddened by their loss and shed many tears with them. It has been incredibly upsetting and heart-breaking to attend meetings with their solicitors, with the IPCC who is now investigating this case, liaising with funeral directors and repatriation company, and many other practical issues which the family had to face.

It has made me realise, more than ever before, how important it is to have professional interpreters to help people in need like Mr and Mrs Zhang. I cannot bring their son back to them, but in a very small way, I am helping the family in this extremely difficult time, making life a little easier for them. 

They are flying back to China very soon, taking the body and soul of their beloved son with them. Their sadness and sorrow may never go away but I hope that time will heal the wound and ease their pain and suffering. 

If you want to learn more about this case, there are reports on all major British newspapers as well as local media. Here are a couple of relevant posts: Watchdog Launches Investigation into Death of Birmingham Student Hit by Police Car; and Student Knocked Over and Killed by Unmarked Police Car;

Xuan Wei’s Parents Being Interviewed by Chinese Press in London 张轩玮父母接受《华闻周刊》采访

If you can read Chinese, just type in 张轩玮,you’ll find a lot of articles reporting this tragedy, including a short video clip from his parents when they first arrived in the UK.  

Xuan Wei, You’re Sorely Missed – May Your Spirits Live On!

The orignal Memorial Speech (in Mandarin Chinese) and Xuan Wei’s photos are courtesy of Mr ZHANG Zhong Jin and Mrs ZHU Jianxiu. I’d like to, once again, offer Xuan Wei’s whole family, his relatives and friends in China and overseas my most deeply felt condolences. 

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10 Responses to A Tall Tree Cut Down in His Prime – A Father’s Tribute

  1. Wei Wei says:

    It is so sad to hear such a tragedy happened to a young man with such a good prospect. I can’t feel sorry enough for his parents. A similar accident happened to one of our good friend’s son (Sam, 22-year-old) last Aug and we were all so devastated for him and his family.Our friend is still in mourning but he has used his love and memory for his son to set up a charity to help some young people reaching for their dreams, to celebrate Sam’s short but enriched life.
    I really hope that Xuan Wei’s parents would receive a lot of support and care from the Chinese Embassy in the UK, Birmingham Police department and other relevant organisations and Xuan Wei’s remains are being treated with dignity. And I also hope that his parents would celebrate his life while mourning for him.
    Well done to you Junying, for being so professional and supportive at the same time.

    • Junying says:

      Wei Wei,

      Many thanks for your good wishes to the family and for sharing the sad story of Sam. I’ll pass your condolences to them when I see the parents tomorrow.

      It’s extremely hard to lose such a wonderful man as Xuan Wei, who was kind, generous, helpful and loved by many. As a parent, I know how devastating it must be when such a tragedy stuck out of the blue, and I can’t imagine what it would be like to be dealt with such a blow. I so admire the parents for their strength and courage, and they have shown true dignity and spirit.

      I sincerely hope that the family will find the truth and feel comforted that their son did not die in vain. The University has started a scholarship to award a student of best performance from Nanjing every year in Xuan Wei’s name so he will always be remembered.

  2. Junying, a beautiful letter from a father, to and about his son. My heartfelt condolences go out to Mr. & Mrs. Zhang. There truly is no greater loss than the devastation of losing ones child, they are God’s gift and our treasures. I have seen it happen with my neighbour; it’s been four years and still the hurt is numbing. May Xuan Wei rest in peace, and may he smile down on his parents who are so proud of him and his achievements.

    Having spoken to you since this heartbreaking incident, I can only reiterate what I told you privately and that is, not only are these parents essentially going through hell at the moment, and will continue on this path for a while yet, I know that you too are emotionally drained. This is beyond a job; you also offer them compassion and a much needed shoulder to lean on including leaving them, when it’s time, holding a piece of your heart. The world needs more people like you. What you do IS selfless. I admire YOU for what and who you are, and that’s an inspiration.

    Constantly thinking of you. Take care, my dear friend.

    • Junying says:


      You’re so kind with your compliments, and I am grateful. Yes, Jobs like this are distressing and emotionally demanding, and compassion is an important part of being a good professional interpreter. We, as fellow human beings, share many of our feelings and experiences, and sometimes the support we give are far more helpful and necessary than simply offering our language skills.

      I shall pass the family your kind words and thoughts, and on their behalf, I thank you for your sympathy and heart-felt condolences.

      Take care, my lovely friend and speak soon. Xx

  3. Geoffrey says:

    How deeply moving. I have two sons of similar ages, both at university, one completing his master’s this year, both full of now blossoming promise, and I have always appreciated the wisdom of “living in the now”. Let us never fail to remind our children that we love them, pray for their safety, and yet allow them the space, time and distance to grow into what they need to become. We bring great honour to ourselves, to them and to our entire family if we respect, love and nurture our little ones and bring them to maturity and fulfilment of their promise. To see that cut down without pity at a moment of great achievement is so very sad, and I much appreciated the grace and love shown in this piece. May we all live up to it.

    • Junying says:

      Geoffrey, I agree with your every word. Yes, as parents, it’s our pride and joy, when our children grow up doing things they love and living a life they want to. We must appreciate every moment and treasure our family and loved ones.

      Many thanks for popping in and sharing your wisdom.

  4. Dannie Hill says:

    A very touching tribute from Sam’s father and mother. As hard as this time is I know they are touched by the love friends and people in Sam’s life have shown them.

    He will live on in many memories.

    Thank you for sharing, Junying.

  5. eden baylee says:

    What a horrible, senseless death for a brilliant young man. I am so happy his parents have you as their interpreter, Junying.

    I’m sure you bring comfort to them in more ways than you can know.


    • Junying Kirk says:

      Eden & Dannie,

      Thank you for your kind comments. It’s very hard to know how best to comfort families who have suffered such a terrible tragedy, but I am grateful to see that so many people have come forward to show their sympathy and support. Your words mean a lot to the family and to me.

  6. Pingback: #Interpreting – The Happy, the Sad and the Bloody Horror (2) | Author Junying Kirk

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