Viewpoint: Current moral climate in China needs reform

By Jennifer Kang

On Oct. 13, a 2-year-old girl was run over twice by a van and once more by a truck on the streets of Guangfo Hardware Market in Huangqi of Foshan, a city in central Guangdong province in southern China.

After 18 people passed her by during seven painful minutes, Wang Yue finally received help from a 58-year-old street cleaner, Chen Xianmei.

When I looked at the condensed four-minute video of the accident, I was infuriated by those who just looked and then went on with their business.

I wondered how so many people could walk by and not feel a sense of urgency as this child’s life slipped away. I wondered where the morals and ethics we learn as children disappeared to in the lives of the onlookers.

A few days after I watched this video, I learned that the street cleaner who helped the child was being accused of seeking to earn money and fame.

I cringed not only at the blatant disregard for human life, but also at the idea that a “good Samaritan’” is no longer part of Chinese culture.

Although I am not Chinese, I know that Asian cultures are based on the community working together. When did this change?

Maybe the shift occurred when the Chinese economy started booming and a corrupt society, driven by the selfish desire to make money, was formed. Or maybe it happened when an unfair judicial system made Chinese citizens fear helping others because they might have to pay for something they did not do.

In 2006 in China, a man named Peng Yu helped a woman who had fallen down on a street. The woman claimed that Yu had pushed her and only picked her up because he felt guilty. It was later ruled in court that Yu needed to pay the woman’s medical expenses.

There are many instances in which people are hit by cars or fall down and no one helps. Many Chinese citizens fear helping others because they fear being labeled the cause of the problem.

It saddens me to hear this. Basic human instinct demands a person help when someone is hurt. But when I hear about the current moral climate in China, I wonder how I would react in a situation like this one.

I know now if I see a person hurt, I would try to help. I continue to wonder if I would act differently in a country where helping others is discouraged because of liability issues.

But no matter how much I fear the threat of liability, there is no reason for me not to help. I can’t just stand there and watch someone die in front of me and live with that guilt burdening my conscience.

There is hope for China. There are organizations such as China Aid Association that fight for human rights and religious freedom. There is a huge risk in what these people do because they can be tortured and kidnapped while trying to defend others.

Although all of us may not be as courageous as these individuals, each of us can still lend a helping hand when we see someone in need.

Jennifer Kang is a senior international business and business journalism major from Irvine, Calif., and a reporter for the Lariat.