STRESS AND COLDNESS IN CHINA AND CALLOUSNESS OVER THE HIT-AND-RUN DEATH OF A TWO-YEAR GIRL

STRESS AND COLDNESS IN CHINA

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Sanmao
The high rate of economic growth has created great opportunities but has also generated a lot of stress and a strong sense of being left out and not getting a share of wealth no matter how hard you try. One happily married, well-off young executive at a mobile phone company---somebody you would think has it all---told the Los Angeles Times, “Life is so stressful. I feel enormous pressure on my shoulders all the time. If only I could do better somehow I might become rich and happy.” Even so In an 11-nation survey on anxiety by the New-York-based adverting firm, JWT, China scored the lowest. Japan scored the highest.

A Chinese sociologist told the New York Times, "People are busy, they're making money and they don’t care about your private life. Before people were idle and liked to tell you how to lead your life, but that's changed.” A 29-year-old Chinese drug addict told the Washington Post, ‘society is so utilitarian now. People only get along with others if they can give them something. It’s such a cold society, and people feel abandoned. People give up at night. They want to forget.”

Explaining why baseball bats are becoming widely used as defensive weapons, Zhou Xiaozheng, a sociologist at People's University in Beijing, told the Los Angeles Times, "Chinese people do not feel safe today...There's a coldheartedness to society." The Rising Sun Anger Release Bar in Nanjing employs 20 muscular men as “models” for customers to beat and scream at to release pent-up anger and stress. Customers are also, for a fee, allowed to smash glasses and generally make a mess of things.

Stress. See Education, Economics

Pushing, Staring and Not Waiting in Line in China

left Chinese are notorious for bumping into each other, blocking doorways, littering, spitting in restaurants, smoking anywhere they please, letting doors slam in people's faces, stopping their cars wherever they want, butting in line, shoving and pushing, walking in groups that take up the entire sidewalk, leaping into elevators, and generally not getting out of the way or watching where they are going. Chinese generally don't form lines they form "huddles" around ticket booths and bank clerks.

After years of long queues, Chinese people have learned to be ruthless about cutting in line. Zhou Xiaozheng, a sociology professor at Beijing University told the Los Angeles Times, “The whole society is impatient. President Hu Jintao said...we Chinese must be modest and cautious and avoid arrogance. Of course this means we’re none of these things.”

Chinese act pushy unconsciously. They don't have the same concept of personal space as Westerners. Chinese are used to crowds and pushing you way through a busy sidewalk or subway station is considered normal. If two people collide, a brief apology might be offered, then people continue with their business as if nothing happened.

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Citizens posters image
The Chinese love to stare at foreigners and it is not unusual for a "staring squad" of a hundred people to gather around a tourist in rural towns where local people don't see many foreign visitors. Hairy arms and legs and red and blonde hair seem to be particularly fascinating and some Chinese like to touch or pluck the hairs to see if they are genuine. Staring back or getting angry is often counter-productive: it only attracts more attention.

On drivers and waiting in line in Shanghai, Andrew Field wrote: “At times it seems to be an all out battle for supremacy over the road with no quarter given. The "me first" mentality is very strong when it comes to driving etiquette or lack thereof. This in turn leads to far more accidents, which cause traffic delays ratcheting up levels of anxiety, leading to more fender-benders and so on in a vicious cycle. And people end up spending more time and money on the road and getting their cars fixed. But it is all worthwhile if one can shave that second off the road trip by cutting in front of another vehicle. This used to be true of lines here in China as well, such as the queues formed at a bank or a ticket counter. People have become far more polite about lining up since I first arrived in China in the 1980s. I suspect that over time, people in Shanghai will develop a more sophisticated sense of etiquette when it comes to driving. But who knows? Only time will tell.

Shouting, Noise and Fighting in China


Shenyang street fight
The Chinese like to shout and make noise and can be quite loud and boisterous. What sounds like a bitter argument is often just a normal conversation, especially in southern China. What sounds like a loud party is often just an ordinary get together. According to the Lonely Planet guide of China, "there seems to be a competition for who can speak the loudest, turn the radio or TV up to the highest volume and detonate the most firecrackers." Many scenic and otherwise serene spots in China are embellished with loud crackly music blaring from speakers nailed onto temples and trees. Chinese vitality is sometimes described with the word "renao," meaning “hot and noisy.” Even though Chinese can be loud and physical themselves they often frown upon Western-style loudness and boisterousness.

Chinese have been described as "non-confrontational." They often go out of their way to be polite and accommodating and avoid disputes and conflicts. Still, while fistfights are rare, pushing and shoving and screaming matches are quite common, and when conflicts do begin they can quickly escalate. Many public altercations begin as a dispute over money or reaction to being bumped into or stepped on and mushroom into, in the words of the writer Paul Theroux, a "more general and menacing harangue." "The most common mode of conflict," wrote Theroux," "is the screaming out-of-hand row---two people screeching at each other, face-to-face. They are long and loud, and they attract large crowds of spectators. For face-saving reasons such disputes can only be resolved by a third party, and until that person enters they fray, two squabblers go on shrieking."

Atlantic monthly editor James Fallows wrote: “Westerners who have not traveled in China might be surprised at how outspoken ordinary Chinese people can be. When cars or bicycles collide (often), the parties involved get out to yell at each other or at the cops, and plead their case to the gathering crowd. Workers complain about bosses who have cheated them. Residents complain about the landlords...But when people complain, it is usually about those crooked bosses, reporters, mayors or bureaucrats---not about the system or its rulers.”

Describing an altercation he witnessed at the McDonald’s in Beijing, Peter Hessler wrote in The New Yorker, “The drunk couple began arguing loudly. Suddenly the woman stood up, brandished a newspaper, and smacked the man on the head. Then she stormed out, right past Playland. Without a word the man folded his arms, lay his head down on the table, and went to sleep.”

Belligerent Behavior See Basketball, Snooker, Sports.

Callousness in China

Alice Yan wrote in the South China Morning Post, “A young man jumps into a river to save a family of three who are drowning. He helps them reach the river bank but becomes trapped in the water and cannot climb out. As his strength fails, bystanders urge the family to help the person who just rescued them. But they walk away, with the woman in the group saying it is none of their business as the man drowns. That series of events transpired in Loudi, a city of 3.8 million in southern Hunan, last month as reported by legaldaily.com. another example, some observers argued, of society's descent into selfish indifference. [Source: Alice Yan, South China Morning Post, August 27, 2012]

In August 2012, “a fish vendor in Xiangtan, Hunan helped send an 83-year-old woman to hospital after she fell down on a street. Her family hounded the man for a 200,000 yuan ($30,000) payment. Panicked, the vendor committed suicide by drinking pesticide. [Ibid]

Chinese Couple Bury Woman Alive, Sparking Outrage

In May 2012, Reuters reported: “Chinese police have arrested a young couple who buried an old woman alive believing she was dead after their car hit the 68-year-old, newspapers said, in a case which has sparked outrage over declining public morality. The couple had been at an all-night karaoke session when they hit the woman while driving in the early hours of the morning in the wealthy eastern province of Zhejiang last month, the official China Daily said. [Source: Reuters, May 23, 2012]

“A witness said he heard someone crying and saw an elderly woman lying on the ground near (the car)," it cited a policeman as saying. "A man and a woman got out and put the elderly woman in the car, saying they would send her to hospital." But, worried about being arrested for drunk driving and causing the accident and believing she was no longer alive, they buried her near the side of the road, the report added. However, when police later found the woman's body they discovered she was still alive when she was buried, and had then suffocated to death, the paper said. [Ibid]

“The story has been widely discussed on China's popular Twitter-like service Weibo, where it has ignited uproar for what some called the immorality of modern Chinese society. "Such things show that our society really has huge problems it is not facing," wrote one user. "People of China, how have you come to this?" wrote another. [Ibid]

“China's economic boom and the growing disparity between the rich and poor have made changing social values a contentious topic, with some lamenting what they see as materialism and a get-rich-quick attitude replacing public morals. [Ibid]

Two-Year Girl Ignored by 18 Passers-By After Being Run-Over by a Van

In October 2011, a two-year-old girl, Wang Yueyue, was left comatose after being knocked down by a van in a back alley street of Guangfo Hardware Market in the city of Foshan in southern Guangdong Province. The van driver stopped for a moment, presumably realising in horror that he has just hit a toddler. Then he drives on crushing her again beneath his rear wheels. As she lay on the ground, her face bloodied, writhing in pain---before being hit by a second vehicle---18 people, on their bicycles, in cars or on foot, passed by but chose to ignore her. Among those who walk by is a young woman with her own child. Several glance at the child’s bloodied body before continuing, while others walk or wheel around it---callousness that prompted an outpouring of soul-searching and disgust in China and around the world. [Source: Tania Branigan, Lijia Zhang, The Guardian, October 17, 22, 2011]

The girl was declared brain dead and lay in a coma after the incident for about a week before finally succumbing to her injuries. A spokesman at Guangzhou Military District General Hospital, where she was treated, told AFP that Wang Yueyue had died of brain trauma and "systemic organ failure", adding that no expense had been spared to try to save the girl, whose parents are migrant workers.

The BBC reported: “Wang Yueyue was knocked down by a van while wandering through a market, where her parents run a shop. The driver sped off without checking on the girl's condition. Over the following minutes, 18 people walked past the bleeding toddler, and another van ran over her legs, but no-one stopped to help.” The distressing footage was aired by a local television station and then spread rapidly on China's microblogs and Youku, China's equivalent of YouTube, where it was watched 1.5 million times in the first day it was shown. It was also shown again and again on overseas television. [Source: BBC, October 21, 2011]

Leo Lewis wrote in the Times of London, “Yueyue, two, was 100m from her family home in Foshan, south China, when she wandered into the path of a van...The child might have been saved if a seven-minute procession of cyclists and pedestrians had not looked the other way. The callousness of the drivers and those who walked on has been taken by Chinese as evidence that the country is losing its soul. [Source: Leo Lewis, The Times, October 18, 2011]

Several passersby can be seen stopping to look down at the girl before carrying on. “Even after Yueyue was carried off the street and put against some sacks, the unwillingness of people to become involved was all too obvious.The 57-year-old rubbish collector who finally moved her ran from shop to shop to find the toddler's parents and was repeatedly told to mind her own business.”

Yueyue’s mother said she was a good girl, full of life. She said she had just brought Yueyue back from her kindergarten. She popped out to collect the dry clothes and returned to find Yueyue gone---probably trying to look for her elder brother.

Callousness of People Connected to the Two-Year Girl Ignored by 18 Passers-By

No one even bothered to call for emergency services. Later, when interviewed by a journalist, one of the passersby, a middle-aged man riding a scooter, said with an uncomfortable smile on his face: "That wasn't my child. Why should I bother?" [Source: Lijia Zhang, The Guardian, October 22, 2011]

After doctors declared the child brain dead, her parents received a phone call from one of the drivers saying: "If you had hit her, you would run too." A man who identified himself as the same driver told local media: "If she's dead, I may pay only about 20,000 yuan ($3200, but if she's injured it may cost me hundreds of thousands of yuan."

Reaction to Hit-and-Run Two-Year Girl Ignored by 18 Passers-By

China's largest microblogging site, Sina Weibo, rapidly became an arena for fury and accusation. "This is not about 18 individuals reflecting on their hateful indifference, but a matter of shame for everyone. We are a kind people. When did we start hiding that?" said one."Humans beget humans, devils beget devils. China gave birth to this f***ing society," wrote another. [Source: Leo Lewis, The Times, October 18, 2011]

There were hundreds of thousands of posts on whether China had lost its morality and sense of compassion in its rush to modernity. Many bloggers highlighted what they saw as contrasting Chinese and foreign responses to an endangered life, citing an incident last week when an American tourist jumped into a lake in the southeastern city of Hangzhou to rescue a Chinese woman from drowning. Several also pointed out that it was a rubbish collector among the poorest and often worst-educated members of society who stopped to help, while others carried on.

One netizen commented on what he called an ethical decline that starts with corrupt officials and ends with a "zombie" population stripped of its humanity. "Find those 18 passers-by, dissect their brains and see what medicine the Communist Party has been feeding us to make them like the walking dead," wrote one widely forwarded post.

Many microbloggers yesterday wondered if they would have behaved differently. Others, echoing similar comments after a high-speed railway collision in July, blamed the country's breakneck pursuit of profit for the death of "the good and the beautiful". One, on a tack that resulted in censors deleting some microblogs on the Sina Weibo website, blamed a government that had "broken the moral standards of the Chinese nation down to a level where the people are screaming".

Reporting from the scene of the incident a few days later, Martin Patience of BBC News reported: Other than the two chalk circles marked "1" and "2" on the road, there was little to suggest anything out of the ordinary. The hardware stores selling irons, light fittings and taps were all open. Shopkeepers sat around chatting to each other. A shopkeeper close to where the incident took place said she had been sickened when she saw the footage. "Every time I watch it, my heart breaks," said Hu Haiou. "I catch the news every night to see if she'll survive. The people who walked by were shameful." Another shopkeeper, Chen Guilin, said it had been raining hard the night of the incident. "The raindrops sounded like drumbeats on the roof," she said, "We had no idea what happened outside." [Source: BBC, October 21, 2011]

Wang Yueyue’s death was one of the most remarked on topics on China's Weibo - a micro-blogging site similar to Twitter - on as people expressed sorrow and anger over the incident. "Farewell to little Wang Yueyue. There are no cars in heaven," wrote one micro-blogger. "Hope you can find some love in heaven. This world is full of apathy," added "Winter space." [Source: Ben Blanchard, Reuters, October 21, 2011]

Reasons Why People Didn’t Help the Two-Year Girl Hit by the Van

As the fury died down the focus shifted from the callousness of the passers-by to practical pressures that kept them from trying to help. "Now people have become so selfish. So many people walked by but no one helped her because they didn't want to get into trouble," said Yang Yaying, a 21-year-old Beijing resident.

Many people in China are hesitant to help people who appear to be in distress for fear that they will be blamed. High-profile lawsuits have ended with good Samaritans ordered to pay hefty fines to individuals they sought to help. A senior provincial social worker, Liu Runhua, told Reuters he did not believe the case reflected a wider malaise in Guangdong. "Those who ignore the dying make up only a handful of people in the province," the China Daily quoted him as saying. "But cases when dying persons aren't given help, or when good Samaritans get into trouble, are often widely reported in the media, which tends to make the public concerned." [Source: Ben Blanchard, Reuters, October 21, 2011]

The Guardian reported that one microblog poster said that while the footage was heartbreaking he would have been "numb" to Yueyue too. "Would you be willing to throw your entire family's savings into the endless whirlpool of accident compensation? Aren't you afraid of being put into jail as the perpetrator? Have you ever considered that your whole family could lose happiness only because you wanted to be a great soul?" he wrote. [Source: Tania Branigan, The Guardian, October 17, 2011]

Many remember a case in 2006 when a 65-year-old woman fell in the street and broke her hip in Nanjing judge in Jiangsu province. In what became know as the "Nanjing judge" incident a 26-year-old man named Peng Yu rushed to help the old woman and took her to a hospital and waited to see if the old woman was all right and gave her 200 yuan for good measure. Later, however, the woman and her family accused Peng of causing her fall and sued him for 45,000 yuan. A judge decided in favour of the woman, based on the assumption that "Peng must be at fault. Otherwise why would he want to help?", saying that Peng acted against "common sense". The outcry from the public in support of Peng forced the court to adjust its verdict and resulted in Peng paying 10 percent of the costs instead of the total. Since that incident Peng has become a national cautionary tale: the Good Samaritan being framed by the beneficiary of their compassion.[Source: Lijia Zhang, The Guardian, October 22, 2011 and Leo Lewis, The Times, October 18, 2011]

Since then the fear of litigation has increased. In June 2010 a man helped an elderly woman only to be sued for 100,000 yuan. In September 2011 the Ministry of Health advised the public not to rush to lend a hand to the elderly if they fall. Soon after that an 88-year-old man fell over face down at the entrance of a vegetable market near his home in Wuhan. For almost 90 minutes, he was ignored by people in the busy market. After his daughter found him and called an ambulance, the old man died "because of a respiratory tract clogged by a nosebleed". If anyone had turned him over, he might have survived.

The Communist Party's official newspaper, the People's Daily, subsequently conducted a poll that found that 80 per cent of people would not help an elderly person in the street for fear of extortion.

Gawking Rather than Helping and Don't Get Involved If It's Not Your Business

Lijia Zhang wrote in the The Guardian,”It's true that in China you can get into trouble when you try to help. Weeks ago I spotted an accident on the fourth ring road in Beijing as I returned home one night. A man was hit by a "black car", an "illegal taxi", and his face was all bloody. Watched over by a crowd, the injured man behaved aggressively towards the driver. I got off my scooter. As I tried to pull the two men apart, I was struck myself. When I asked if anyone had reported this to the police, the driver said no. I couldn't believe that people just stared as if enjoying a free show, without doing anything. I called the helpline and the policemen turned up soon after.[Source: Lijia Zhang, The Guardian, October 22, 2011]

The fundamental problem, in my view, lies in one word that describes a state of mind: shaoguanxianshi, meaning don't get involved if it's not your business. In our culture, there's a lack of willingness to show compassion to strangers. We are brought up to show kindness to people in our network of guanxi, family and friends and business associates, but not particularly to strangers, especially if such kindness may potentially damage your interest.

Fei Xiaotong, China's first sociologist, described Chinese people's moral and ethical characteristics in his book, From the Soil, in the middle of the last century. He pointed out that selfishness is the most serious shortcoming of the Chinese. "When we think of selfishness, we think of the proverb 'Each person should sweep the snow from his own doorsteps and should not fret about the frost on his neighbour's roof,'" wrote Fei. He offered the example of how the Chinese of that period threw rubbish out of their windows without the slightest public concern. Things are much the same today.

Under Mao, citizens were forced to behave themselves in both public and private spheres. Every March, people were obliged to go into the street to do good deeds: cleaning buses, fixing bicycles and offering haircuts. Now relaxed social control and commercialisation over the past three decades have led people to behave more selfishly again.

People are enjoying, and sometimes abusing, the vast personal freedoms that didn't exist before. To start with, it is now safe to be "naughty".Back in the early 1980s, when I worked at a rocket factory in Nanjing, one of my colleagues, a married man, was caught having an affair with an unmarried woman. He was given a three-year sentence in a labour camp and the girl was disgraced. In today's society, having extramarital affairs or keeping anernai---second wife or concubine---is as common as "cow hair", as the Chinese would say. For a novel I am writing on prostitution, I have interviewed many prostitutes and ernai. Many see their profession as a way to gather wealth quickly, feeling few moral qualms.

China's moral crisis doesn't just manifest itself in personal life but also in business practice and many other areas. The high-profile "poisoned milk powder" case and the scandal of using "gutter oil" as cooking oil have shocked and disgusted people around the world. Last year an article, "Why have Chinese lost their sense of morality?", in which the author tried to find an explanation, was widely read. He reasoned that China has introduced the concept of a market economy from the west but failed to import the corresponding ethics, while the traditional moral principles of China no longer fit the market economy model.

There's a lot of sense in that. I believe that the lack of a value system is also deepening the moral crisis. Before Mao, the indifference towards others once so accurately described by Fei existed but was mitigated by a traditional moral and religious system. That system was then almost destroyed by the communists, especially during the 10 mad years of the Cultural Revolution from 1966 to 1976. Nowadays communism, the ideology that dominated Chinese people's lives like a religion, has also more or less collapsed. As a result, there's a spiritual vacuum that cannot be filled by the mere opportunity of money-making.

The Yueyue incident revealed an ugly side of China. I hope the entire nation will take the opportunity to take a hard look at ourselves and ask ourselves what's wrong with society. There's at least hope in the action of the rubbish collector who rushed to Yueyue's side without hesitation. Xinhua said Yueyue’s father had received more than 270,000 yuan ($42,280) to help pay for her medical treatment, with donations flowing in from Chinese people all over the world. China's economy is galloping like a horse without a rein and its position in the world is rising. We Chinese have every reason to feel proud about what we've achieved. Now we demand respect. But how can we possibly win respect and play the role of a world leader if this is a nation with 1.4 billion cold hearts.”

Lasting Impact of the Incident Involving the Two-Year Girl Hit by the Van

People in China have called upon the government to introduce a 'Good Samaritan law' to punish passersby who refuse to help people in need. Such "duty of rescue" laws exist in many European countries. "I hope that this little angel who was discarded by society can act as a wake-up call to the nation about the importance of moral education," wrote one blogger, "gongzai xiaoben."

The BBC reported: “Guangdong province is debating the introduction of a law to force people to help others in obvious distress. Initial online polls, though, suggest most people are against it. "Talk about being civilised first. Is anyone paying attention to that?" read one posting. Lawyer Zhu Yongping told the Dail Mail that Guangdong province could establish a Good Samaritan law as a local law, but it is difficult to define the motives of a person in each individual case.

Organisations in Guangdong are also looking at other ways to encourage people to act with compassion when faced with an emergency. The provincial government's political and legal affairs committee is using its micro-blog site to gather opinions about how to "guide brave acts for just causes" and promote "socialist morals". Several commentators have linked the failure of the passers-by to help with high-profile cases in which residents who stopped to assist people in distress were later held responsible for their plight.

Reuters reported, “The provincial capital, Guangzhou, plans a law to protect good Samaritans and give rewards of up to 500,000 yuan for such actions, the newspaper added. The provincial Communist Party chief, Wang Yang, urged "searching reflection" on the incident, the official Guangzhou Daily reported."Take active and effective steps to raise the moral standards of the entire society," he told a meeting of province officials, according to the paper. "We should look into the ugliness in ourselves with a dagger of conscience and bite the soul-searching bullet," Wang also said, Xinhua reported separately. [Source: Ben Blanchard, Reuters, October 21, 2011]

Arrest of Two Drivers Who Ran Over the Two-Year-Old Girl

A day or so after Yueyue died, the Daily Mail reported: “Two drivers suspected of running over a Chinese toddler who later died from her injuries have been arrested after a police investigation, newspaper reported Sunday. The Beijing News and other outlets reported that police in the city of Foshan concluded their initial investigation and ordered the two men formally arrested, a step that almost always leads to a trial. It did not say what they were being charged with and calls to Foshan police were unanswered. [Source: Daily Mail, October 24, 2011]

Police said they were able to identify the vehicles and the drivers from the video footage that was shown on television. Hu Jun, 24, was charged with causing the wrongful death of the girl the official Procuratorial Daily newspaper said on its website. Earlier, Foshan police said in a web posting that Hu, who faces three to seven years in prison if convicted, had given himself up three nights after the accident.[Source: AFP, October 25, 2011]

In September 2012, AFP reported: “Hu Jun, the driver who ran over a toddler in a hit-and-run accident that shocked China has been sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison for accidentally causing the toddler's death by hitting her with his car, a spokeswoman for the court in Foshan's Nanhai district said. Hu was given a lighter sentence than he might otherwise have received because he voluntarily turned himself into local police after the accidental killing, and paid part of Yue Yue's medical fees, the China News Service reported. [Source: AFP, September 6. 2012]

Good Samaritan Laws for China?

Alice Yan wrote in the South China Morning Post, “The mainland has no law governing good Samaritans. Whether it needs one has been debated with renewed intensity after Xiao Yueyue, age two, was hit by two vehicles and ignored by a dozen people as she lay bleeding in Foshan, Guangdong, in 2011. She died in hospital. Since then, national lawmakers have had the opportunity to draft a law that specifically addresses good-Samaritan acts. They declined to do so, and in its place, the State Council issued a circular last month that laid out stronger protection of the rights of citizen rescuers. [Source: Alice Yan, South China Morning Post, August 27, 2012]

Academics expect the circular will help standardise the patchwork of regulations that exist at the local or provincial level. More than 60 provinces and cities have issued their own rules or guidelines in recent years on rewards for people who are injured while trying to help others, according to The Beijing News. But local regulations were often poorly implemented, said Jiang Mingan, a law professor at Peking University. Good Samaritans sometimes ended up disabled and without a job after being hurt while helping someone, Jiang said. "Our heroes are hurt not only physically, but also mentally," he said. [Ibid]

According to a survey cited by the Workers' Daily last year, 70 per cent of 3,000 people who had been recognised by authorities in Guizhou for meritorious acts continued to struggle financially. The State Council's circular lists subsidies that a recognised good Samaritan should receive. They cover daily living expenses, any hospital treatment needed, job security, assistance with property purchases and preferential policies for their children's education. The circular also addresses the matter of compensation if the person who extended help is killed or injured. [Ibid]

According to the circular, the rescuer should not be responsible for paying related medical bills. Instead, the person at fault for creating the dangerous situation should pay. If no one is to blame, in acts of nature for example, then the medical-insurance company should bear the cost. Zhu Yongping, director of the Guangzhou Datong Law Firm, said the circular offered a template that local jurisdictions could use to draft or amend their own laws. Improvements were needed, Zhu said, because even with encouragement from propaganda, people were largely ignoring others in distress. He argues existing rules do not go far enough. "Helping others is a moral issue. But in this era, only legal measures can lift the level of morality of the public."

Zhu backs the approach favoured by several European nations, where bystanders have an obligation to help, so long as the rescuer is not putting his own life at undue risk. Ignoring that duty is criminal. China could introduce penalties along these lines for people who fail to extend help, such as issuing a verbal warning, notifying employers or publishing names. Police would decide through investigation whether a person should be held accountable, he said. The mainland's omnipresent security cameras could determine who is to blame. [Ibid]

In China, fear of being sued - either by the person needing help or their family - can deter people from getting involved. There have been several high-profile cases in which the court has found a rescuer responsible for worsening a person's injuries and ordered compensation. Just the threat of financial liability can have a powerful effect. Earlier this month,a fish vendor in Xiangtan, Hunan helped send an 83-year-old woman to hospital after she fell down on a street. Her family hounded the man for a 200,000 yuan (HK$242,000) payment. Panicked, the vendor committed suicide by drinking pesticide. [Ibid]

Man’s Death Strikes Nerve in China

In February 2015, Jess Macy Yu of the New York Times wrote: “State-run media reported that a 57-year-old man in Yuhuan County, Zhejiang Province, staggered and collapsed on Sunday afternoon near the turn of a small lane. Over the next eight minutes, surveillance video shows, four motor vehicles passed and nearly two dozen pedestrians walked by. One man got out of his car after seeing the man lying on the ground, but only looked at him and motioned the car forward before stepping out of the frame. No one offered assistance. Finally, a white car made a right-hand turn at the corner and ran over the man, dragging him away...The Beijing News reported that the man had died. It said that his name was Chen Xiwen and that he had worked as a bricklayer in his younger days. [Source: Jess Macy Yu, Sinosphere, New York Times, February 4, 2015 *^*]

“News of his death touched a deep nerve in China. An article posted on the Tencent QQ News website had attracted more than 46,000 comments” with a few days. “This is the unique characteristic of China,” a post by Ping Tan Yi Sheng said. “To speak honestly, why have people become so coldhearted and without emotions? Actually the reason is the failure of Chinese education. This country has let its people become coldhearted and without emotions.” Another post, under the name Love in the Heart, said “Everyone is scared in the event of a fire to help old people. But if someone just called the police, or called 120 for emergency assistance, the old man would not have been run over by the car.” *^*

“One factor that has been cited in the failure of witnesses to help victims is a fear of being held legally responsible. Cases of people who have tried to help someone in need and who are then accused of causing the accident are thought to have discouraged many passers-by from getting involved. In an effort to protect those who do try to help accident victims, the southern city of Shenzhen in 2013 enacted China’s first Good Samaritan law. The law aimed to reduce the risks of offering help by guaranteeing rescuers a presumption of innocence and free legal assistance in the case of lawsuits by the rescued.*^*

“In the case of Mr. Chen, his previous dealings with would-be Good Samaritans may not have worked in his favor. The head of his village in Yuhuan County told The Beijing News that Mr. Chen was a heavy drinker, and when drunk had often quarreled with other villagers and fallen down. “When he was on the ground and given a hand, he accused other people of pushing him over and insisted that they pay him damages,” the village head said. *^*

Image Sources: 1) Losing Face, from some blog; 2) drawings from Citizens posters. University of Washington; 3) photgraphs, beifan.com http://www.beifan.com/ ; Liu Bolin, China’s Invisible Man artist, Global Times Chinese: photo.huanqiu.com http://photo.huanqiu.com/creativity/unlimited/2010-11/1254288.html ; You Tube

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated June 2015

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