Does bad legislation undermine social responsibility?
On 13 October 2011 little Wang Yue a two year Chinese toddler was run over by two vans and then ignored by passers-by on a busy street inChina.
The accident which was caught on CCTV footage shows Wang Yue walking through a hardware market street in the city ofFoshan, in China’s Southern Guangdong province.
It shows a van striking her and the driver speeding off without checking on her. As little Wang lies down bleeding in the middle of the busy road, about 18 people walk or pass by before another van comes and runs over her legs.
Chen Xianmei, an elderly lady, and rubbish collector, then saw her and moved her to the side of the street, and called for help.
Wang Yue was then taken to a military hospital in neighbouring Guangzhou, the provincial capital, where she died on 21 October.
Two excuses were given by the passers-by who were caught on the CCTV footage – some claimed they didn’t see her (she was invisible!) while others said they were too frightened to help.
Chinese internet social networking responses have been mixed. Some blame her parents for leaving a two year old on her own for 20 minutes.
Others have focused on the Chinese government’s heavy handedness on people who cry out for justice as a source of discouragement for people who would have otherwise wanted to help.
Another group of thought has pointed fingers at capitalism, which it believes is making Chinese to focus on material life at the expense of their ‘moral civilisation’ – thereby becoming socially irresponsible and basically selfish.
However, a significant number amazingly seems to defend the passers-by by indicating that they could have behaved likewise had they been caught up in similar circumstances.
Apparently, they fear to be held responsible for such an incident. An example is cited of an incident back in 2006, where a young man, Peng Yu, in the eastern city of Nanjing was sued for compensation by an old lady with a broken hip who he helped, but who then went on to accuse him of causing the injury.
The court verdict in Nanjing penalised Peng Yu when the judge of the case ruled that ‘common sense’ suggested that he, Peng Yu, only took to the woman to the hospital because he was guilty.
In September 2011, the Ministry of Health reiterated the same principle by issuing a Good Samaritans’ guidelines that advises one to take precaution when helping the elderly.
Meanwhile, Internet users praised Chen Xianmei, as a hero and local government offices sent gifts and letters. This caused resentment from her neighbours, who started harassing her by claiming that she only rescued the child in order to become famous, and get money – reports suggest that her neighbours’ hostility led her to flee her home.
Guangdong province is now debating a law to force people to help others in obvious distress.
This brings me to another experience. My friend, a Kenyan post graduate student of the University of Birmingham got a temporary job as a primary school supply teacher.
One afternoon, he was given the responsibility of monitoring the pupils during their lunch break play-time. As you would expect, the children were playing all sorts of games in the same playground.
Out of nowhere this little boy had a nasty fall. The Kenyan instinctively did what a native African would do under such circumstances. He ran to the boy, helped him to get up and started brushing the grass and other debris from him – little did the poor man know that he was committing a crime among so many witnesses – indecent handling (touching) of a minor – child abuse.
All the children in the playground were astonished at what they were seeing. A few ran to the office to report the matter to the other teachers.
The teachers rushed to the playground and the Kenyan was summoned into the office. After a lengthy pleading, he managed to convince the administration of his ignorance particularly having come from a different culture.
He was spared from being handed over to the police for prosecution – but it was also agreed that he required training, which he should have received in the first instance before being posted to the school. All responsibilities relating to looking after children were withdrawn from him.
After that experience, if a car ran over a child in the UK in the presence of the Kenyan, do you think he would attempt to rescue that child?