September 24, 2009

80 Year-Old Fell Down, No One Dared to Help

(An old man is lying on the ground. Looker-ons unsure whether they should help)

A post titled "80 Year-Old Man Fell Down on Pavement. If you were at the scene, would you help?" have become popular on several Chinese forums. At first I thought it was similar to the classic case study one learns about in psychology: the woman who was knifed outside of her New York apartment in full view of all her neighbors and bled to death, because no one stepped out to help or call ambulance. However, once I began reading the post, I realized that this is an even more tragic story.

Several newspapers reported on this incident, and since the article is well-written, I am simply translating it (with minimal rearrangements):

Netizens Give Tips on How to Help Others While Protecting Themselves

An old man tripped and fell, should you help him up? Recently, a post titled "Old Man Fell, and No One Dared to Help" appeared on several mainstream websites, and lead to heated discussions among netizens. The number of replies exceeded 20,000 in merely four days.

The Post
A man in Chong Qing city wrote on the popular Kai Di Forum ( that at 8:43AM on September 19, he saw an 80 year-old man lying on the ground, hand and foot twitching if as suffering from epilepsy. Around him stood many people, but nobody stepped up to help; in fact, some even warned other who wanted to help: "Don't. Or you will suffer dire consequences." The photo at the beginning of this blog entry shows the man's prone form.

Don't want to be framed by the relatives as the person who caused the accident
Respecting the elders and caring for the young is one of the traditional moral pillars of the Chinese culture. Then why when this old man fell down, people only looked on? Several netizens referred to the Nanjing Old Lady Xu Lawsuit for reason. One ID "Beng Zhi Han Hao" (Chinese: 嫑只喊呺) sighed, "We would like to help, but we cannot afford the fees that families charge." A different ID "zzlaohu" said something similar: "The court judge in Nanjing city taught me one thing, I need to have at least 45K in my bank account before I consider helping." Yet another ID "ouou723" replied sarcastically:"If Lei Feng were alive today, he probably would be fined until he was bankrupt!" (Note: Lei Feng, a soldier in the People's Liberation army, was lauded by the Chinese government and propaganda for his selflessness and willingess to help out others)

"Handbook for Safety"
In response to the original post Netizen "Lin Yi Mu " wrote a 2000 word article named "Standard Self-Aid Procedure for Those Who Help Others."(Click Here) In this darkly humorous article, he outlines what's called the "Five Standard Steps When Helping an Fallen Old Lady Stand Up," which as experts point out, shows the internal conflict that many people go through--the desire to extend aid versus trying to avoid being framed and extorted by relatives of those whom they help.

In addition to the sarcasm, quite a few replies also expressed the wish to go back to the old days, when people were more innocent and interpersonal relationships more genuine. "Xiao Xiao Mei" said, "As human beings we all should have conscience. I would have definitely lent a hand. But before that I will find a few witnesses or ask others to do it with me. Despite of what a lot of people here say, the majority would not want to stand by idly, because we all have our parents and our grandparents (and want others to do the same for them)."

Lawyer Wang Tian from Guangdong Province believes this post reflects the low level to which the societal morality has sunken. He suggested that before helping, one should call the police and use cell phone camera to either take photos or record conversations of the fallen person to proof his/her innocence, as needed.

Nanjing Old Lady Incident
According to Nanjing citizen Mrs. Xu Shou Lan, in the morning of November 20, 2006, she was waiting at a city bus stop. While she was there, Mr. Peng Yu pushed her over in the process of getting off the bus. Mr. Peng Yu, however, has a different story. He claims that when he saw Mrs. Xu on the ground, he stopped to help her up, and tried to wait for the Xu relatives to arrive. He went even as far as sending her to the hospital and paid a deposit of 200 Yuan for her medical bills.

January 4 of next year, Mrs. Xu sued Mr. Peng Yu and took him to court. The court found Mr. Peng guilty and demanded that Mr. Peng pay a sum of 45875.36 Yuan as indemnity. The particular line of reasoning this judged used was as follows: "If Peng Yu was not the culprit, then why would he stop to help? Why would he take her to the hospital?" (Note: Mr. Peng supposedly had witnesses but he still lost)

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