November 01, 2009


When I sent the thread "Changsha Students Who Drowned Trying to Saving Children" to my friend, her first reaction was: "Oh my god. This is tragic." Her second reaction was: "Some couldn't even swim and they still went into the river? How stupid are these college freshmen?" It was then that I dimly recalled the precautions one should take when saving people who drown, a task which, according to everyone, is a dangerous undertaking.

I don't think the students' decision was a matter of stupidity. A poll on Kaixin once revealed that only 52% of the Chinese who voted can swim. This means that the number of people who systematically studied water safety will be much, much less. Given this statistic, is it realistic to expect the students to be fully aware of the extra peril introduced by a thrashing drowning person? After all the persons in question are only 12-year-olds with probably half of the body mass of an adult.

Having taken this likely ignorance into account, I would still say that the rescue effort by the college students was one of the more ingenious plans for action. Namely they formed a line by linking hands until the ninth person reached the kids. It was bold yes, and with bravado that accompanies the youth, but it also guaranteed their own safety to an extent. The fact that they managed to save both kids is a testament to its plausibility.

No, the tragedy happened not due to stupidity but because of a human tendency to overestimate their own limits (e.g, the student who failed to hold on), the lack of proper safety measures that should be implemented at these accident-prone spots, and some people's cruelty, who despite of having the necessary skills and equipment would watch someone die so that they can make money. Compared to the fishermen, the students appear even more heroic.

I hate to think about the families who just lost their sons. China is not like the west, where people have nest eggs so that they can afford some nursing home when they become old and senile. Chinese parents invest a huge mount, time- and money-wise, in their children. The expectation is that after reaching adulthood, these children shall return and care for their parents. If the families are all city folks, then it is very likely that they have just lost their only child. And because of the age restriction the government imposes on marriages (legal only after 23), the parents will be at least 43 year old, long past the prime time to have offspring. So, who will take care of them now? If there is ever a good reason to donate and/or make a memorial fund, now is the perfect time.

Let the dead rest in peace. May the living be strong.

Related post(s)
The Truth Behind "Changsha Students Who Drowned Trying to Save Children"


  1. i blame partial responsibility on the elementary schools that indoctrinate kids into mimicking lei feng.

  2. I rather think this is because the students haven't become as cynical and hardened as their elders.


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