Life seems to be cheap in China.
Mao blithely led 40-60 million Chinese to their deaths over his reign. That the fudge factor is 20 million tells you something in itself.
Now, Chinese are facing up to it, as Barbara Demick at the LAT explains.
How do you turn Bad Samaritans good?
The question has become a national obsession since the shocking death of a 2-year-old named Yueyue who was ignored by 18 passersby as she lay bleeding on the street after a hit-and-run last month in southern China.
Nearly every day brings a new outrage — an 88-year-old man suffocating in his own blood after falling and breaking a nose, people rushing to photograph a suicide attempt without bothering to help — and another hand-wringing editorial about how to cultivate the kindness of strangers.
The latest example came Wednesday, when a 5-year-old boy playing on a sidewalk was struck by a wooden beam that had fallen from a construction site in the city of Linyi in the eastern province of Shandong. His mother begged motorists and bystanders to help bring him to a hospital, but all refused — including the chengguan, low-level municipal police, who drove by and ignored her, according to local media.
An ambulance eventually arrived, but the boy, named Longlong, died on his way to the hospital.
What to do?
Groups with names such as China Kindness and Filial Piety Special Committee and the Office of National Spiritual Civilization have launched special projects to encourage better behavior.
“Trust is one of the hottest topics at the moment,” said Wu Yilin, a pollster at Beijing’s Renmin University of China. Her department has been surveying people about the degree to which they would help a total stranger. In a poll shortly before the hit-and-run, 64.8% of Chinese said they would help an elderly stranger who had fallen, with those refusing saying they feared getting into trouble.
“We in China are very close to our parents and our families, but there is no trust in strangers,” Wu said.
The lack of charitable spirit in China is supported by a poll released in April by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Based on polling data from Gallup, it shows China second from the bottom in a list of 40 countries ranked for “pro-social behavior”: giving to charity, volunteering time and helping strangers.
And why are things this way?
In China, pundits cast about to point the blame. Has the frenetic pursuit of wealth in the go-go economy eroded the values that the Communist Party once instilled about individual sacrifice for the greater good? Or does the blame lie with the Communist Party’s repression of religion and the legacy of brutality of the Cultural Revolution?
The ChiComs never instilled communitarian values. On the contrary, they turned citizen against citizen, institutionalizing distrust.
Now, for the big laugh.
On the flip side, state media have gone out of their way to publicize morality tales showing the heroism and generosity of ordinary Chinese.
One video that captured the public’s attention shows people banding together in a Shanghai park Oct. 23 to help a pregnant woman who fainted. The video shows the group carrying her and flagging down a motorist who volunteers to drive her to the hospital.
“Ever since Little Yueyue left this world, people started to question the consciences. Some even said Chinese no longer have morality,” a caption reads on the video. “Here, people with their actions showed that Chinese still have a heart…. Let’s be proud of Shanghai and of the Shanghai people.”
The problem is, it didn’t really happen that way.
Last week, the head of a Shanghai film production company held a news conference and acknowledged that three of his employees had staged the fall-and-rescue in what he described as a “beautiful lie.”
“What they did was inappropriate, but their intentions were good,” said Zhang Jun of Erma China. “They thought if people saw this on television it would set an example about how they should behave in a warmhearted way when something happens.”