Saturday, October 22, 2011

On the girl run over in China

Most of you will probably have heard about the horrible case of the two year old girl who was run over by a van in Foshan, Guangdong province, and was ignored by 18 passers-by until finally a 57 year old rag collector picked her up and tried to find her parents.

The story has received lots of attention within China as well as worlwide. The incident has produced much soul searching and revulsion. There is an assumption that some recent high-profile cases in which people who tried to help someone who had had an accident were later blamed and sued by the person they wanted to help have discouraged people from assisting strangers. There is now discussion of changing the law to protect and reward those who offer assistance to strangers. The government has also promised a big reward for the woman who finally tried to help the little girl.

And of course, just a few days after the event the Chinese press has conveniently come up with a different story about how in Nanchang, Jiangxi province, a 22 year old girl who was hit by a car was immediately helped by by passers-by and the workers from a nearby construction site, who came, lifted the car up from on top of her and called the emergency services.

Websites directed mainly at expats in China, for instance chinasmack, shanghaiist and echinacities, have all run articles about the incident. And of course, if you look at the comments under the articles, you will find the usual outpouring of expat prejudice and hostility towards China and the Chinese, mixed with some (rare) intelligent comments. For many of the commenters, this episode shows how the Chinese and their culture are indeed basically flawed, how they only care about money, how they have no morals or compassion, how this country is basically a hell-hole etc....

The fact that the incident has precipitated a lot of public disgust and condemnation within China would already seem to disprove this vision of things. Not to mention the fact that in the end it was a poor rag collector who did try to intervene.

Another important fact to remember is that this sort of thing can happen anywhere. For instance, in 2010 there was a case in New York in which a Guatemalan homeless man was stabbed while trying to save a woman from an attacker with a knife, and he then bled to death on the pavement as dozens of people walked by and did not help or call for an ambulance. One person even stopped to take a photo. Just as in the case of the girl in China, it was all captured by a surveillance camera. Clearly heartlessness towards strangers in big cities is not limited to China.

My assumption is that what stopped those passers-by from intervening was a mixture of fear of being blamed themselves and getting into trouble, and the idea that someone competent would surely deal with it anyway and that they might as well mind their own business. One of the passers-by who ignored the girl has spoken out, according to a report by China Daily. Here is the excerpt from the article:

Many of the 18 people who passed by the girl at the accident scene and did not help denied that they saw the girl or were aware of the situation.

One of them, a mother of a five-year-old girl, said she felt "regretful, compassionate, painful at heart and guilty," for seeing Yue Yue but not helping her.

"I thought she had fallen down from playing and didn't know she was run over by vehicles until her mother came in tears.

"She was bleeding from the mouth and nose and crying faintly. I was scared and my daughter was scared to cry. So we left in a hurry," said the woman surnamed Lin, cited by Guangzhou Daily.

"I wanted to lift her, but there was so much blood. I was scared. If someone was helping at that time, I would have done the same."


Tang Xiaoyan said...

The first time I read this report, i was totally shocked, for me it is inconceivable. 18 people passed a bloody girl without doing anything. so horrible!
then i asked myself whether i am willing to help Yue Yue. sorry, i am not so sure i can send her to the hospital. but i can call 110 or 120 to ask help from police. i am not so heartless and also not so warm hearted.
why some chinese are so heartless? why they are so selfish and only consider themselves? why they only care making money ?
firstly, it is involved in the education. in terms of eduction, most of chinese only criticize the school education. you can also find a lot of comments on the school education in the mass media. the media report guide citizens ignore the family education (for chinese, the chinese education from primary school to university is totally like rubbish and makes no sense. more and more people prefer to send their children abroad to get more developed and better education. for me, i think the chinese education from primary school to high school is excellent. the most failure is the university education. ). maybe you know the case of Yao Jiaxin. After his death penalty, a very famous chinese journalist Chai Jing made a exclusive interview of Yao's parents. his father is very very regret for this method of communication and getting together with his child. he never said any words to encourage his son. because of望子成龙, the parents only consider the study of their children. for the morality education, compared to the scores, it makes no sense. also because the one-child policy, the couple with the unique child, they spoil the child and consider the child as the centre of the life. because of this, the children don not know how to share, how to get along with others, how to take responsibility ? i hope the chinese government modify this stupid policy. maybe two-child policy. it is better.
secondly, because of the special stage for social development, people lack of the sense of security(i donnot know you can understand this or not), like some social welfares are not so developed, the policy of our government are changing each day.The only way they can make sure is to get money. the more the better. maybe some developed the countries experienced the same stage many years ago. yes, we need time, maybe 20 years, or 100 years...
yes, i must go to sleep.
thanks for ur blog.


Ji Xiang said...

I suspect that the materialism in modern Chinese society is mostly linked with the last factor you mentioned. People don't have a real sense of security because of the lack of decent social welfare, free healthcare, decent pensions etc... Plus if you are poor in China then your living conditions can be really quite bad, so people will do their best to avoid it.

I am not so sure about the one child policy. So you think it should be changed? What about the problems of overcrowding? Do you really think there is a problem with single children being spoilt? It seems to me that most of these "spoilt" Chinese single children have huge pressure on their backs, because all their familiy's dreams are concentrated on them, and they have to work like mad at school to fulfill their parents' ambitions.

And you think Chinese education from primary school to high school is excellent, but university is bad? That's interesting. Don't you think students are overworked like mad in Chinese schools? That's the impression I get here.