The death of 2-year old Yueyue in Foshan in October set off a firestorm of debate in China over why people tend not to help others in need. Eighteen people saw the injured toddler laying on the ground after being struck by a car, twice, and it wasn’t until a scrap collector came across Yueyue’s limp body that she finally got some help. Yueyue, of course, later died in hospital.
The issue is complicated. There have been high-profile cases in China in which Good Samaritans helped, only to be taken advantage of later. The China Daily points to one particular case:
Most people attribute the apathy of the onlookers partially to a high-profile 2006 case in East China’s Jiangsu province in which a driver who stopped to help an elderly woman was later punished.
Peng Yu, then 26, said he stopped after seeing a woman fall and escorted her to a hospital, but she accused him of knocking her down with his car, and a court ordered him to pay her 45,000 yuan ($6,900) in damages.
This has led many to adopt an attitude of avoiding anything perceived as potentially dangerous and staying out of other people’s business, no matter how dire.
Shenzhen has decided to tackle the problem by introducing a Good Samaritan Law. It is designed to protect Good Samaritans who help a victim by freeing them from any legal liability for the condition of the person they helped. CNN takes a look at reaction on the Chinese internet:
As with all major announcements, netizens are buzzing with opinions on China’s most popular micro-blogging portal Sina Weibo. While many supported the draft, some acknowledged the unfortunate necessity for a Good Samaritan law in China. One user, @YiWuZhiMing (以吾之螟), commented: “Given the current social norm in China, perhaps establishing a legal statute is the only way to protect the remaining conscience and morality here.”
Another user hoped the law could shape a better China. @2010GuYue (2010古月) wrote: “The tragedy of Chinese education! I fully support the Good Samaritan law: it is acceptable to not leave your name after doing good deeds, but it is never acceptable to be wrongly accused. We cannot let our future generations think that it is difficult to be a decent person.”
However, not all are in favor of a Good Samaritan law. Some netizens argued the measure could never resolve China’s deeply rooted problem. @QingFengZaiQi (清风再起) lamented: “Broken system, demoralized society, fallen ethics, forgotten faith. No matter how many laws are implemented, it’ll be useless.”
Generally, in our humble opinion, the Good Samaritan Law in Shenzhen is more of a band-aid solution to a much more serious problem. China has a tendency to solve issues it deems problematic through diktat (Four Pests Campaign, anyone?), but this is a complex (and dark) problem with deep roots. Quite simply, we’re not sure what’s a worse offense: ignoring somebody clearly in dire need of help, or taking advantage of a kind-hearted person who took a risk to help somebody else. There is a certain level of moral decay here which, while the Good Samaritan Law is helpful, will not be solved through legislation.