Why readiness to help becomes a risk in China?

It’s actually risky to lend a hand to someone who’s fallen on the street. It sounds ridiculous, but for most Chinese, it might sadly be the case.


In some recent incidents, car drivers and passers-by tried to help out some elderly people who happened to fall on the ground while crossing the street, but they ended up being charged by some of the elderly who claimed that it was actually they who ran them off.


For some, thanks to CCTV camera and witnesses, the charge was finally dismissed. But for the other, due to lack of proof, they might face a verdict of thousands of dollars’ compensation.


This vicious cycle ended up with the latest case on the 2nd September, when an 88-year-man fell on the ground in a food market near his house in the city of Wuhan. Since nobody came up to help, he was sent to the hospital only one hour afterward, and finally died of nosebleed blocked.


So the question is why people are reluctant to help. Is it really that Chinese are losing their faith and social conscience during the economic boom? Why is it so hard to do good in China? And particularly why those who actually do receive help tend to charge the innocent?


One good reason for the unfathomable phenomenon is that these elderly once injured, are facing an exorbitant medical bill that would traumatize them much more than the illness. So out of natural or purposed reaction, they tend to find a scapegoat who could pay the bill, no matter whether the accused is actually guilty or not.


Seeing this, the lack of conscience and loss of moral limits is definitely a persistent problem in Chinese society nowadays. But behind it, a wide range of work needs to be done in terms of social welfare, health care and justice system – the fundamentals to protect social conscience and moral basics.

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I live in Canada and i saw many times old people falling in the street during winter...nobody moove this is crazy and i found out i am always the only one who jump to help...Maybe one day i will be suied by one of this old people....I understand the point of vue but this time it is a 2 year old baby...i mean they have no heart??!!! CRAZY!!
This is the westernised perspective for public consumption in the west. It should be realised that many Chinese wholeheartedly believe in what we consider to be the supernatural, and will not interfere in something such as this, for fear of offending or invoking the wrath of the spirits or demons that are believed to be involved. (The Book of Chinese Beliefs by Frena Bloomfield). So it is not as callous as it appears. In addition, it is only causing serious soul searching in China, because the CCP does not want China to be portrayed as a nation under the thrall of spirits, demons and other supernatural entities. That said, this phenomenon is not exclusive to China. Italy, for example, is not too far behind, since Malleus Maleficarum (Hammer of the Witches) is still in play, as per the Italians' attitude toward women as being either the Madonna, the whore, or the witch, and where black cats are routinely killed. Perhaps this is why the Chinese get on so well with the Italians.
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Thanks a lot for all your comments. To WG: Well, it’s not quite a recent phenomenon. As early as 2006, there was a well-known judicial dispute named Peng Yu case, where Peng, a young citizen in Nanjing, helped an old lady fallen on the ground who tried to get onto a bus, but was later charged by her for injuries. He finally paid about 1 500 dollars for compensation. But what’s more astounding is when the judge threw out questions such as “there were many people around, why it was only you who helped her?” I shall say that the good Samaritan ethic is instilled in the Chinese general culture. But because of the defaults in the justice system, the focus on the economic growth and the lack of welfare protection, people become more and more reluctant to help. This is seen not only in the incidents described above, but also in the donation to charitable organizations, due to recent scandals over China Red Cross and China Charity for misusing the funds for other purposes.
This kind of behavior is common not only in China, but in many other countries. I am from Russia and here it’s ok to drive pass someone asking for help on the highway. The reason is the same: you can be thieved. In the US there are lots of so called ‘freaks’ who try to accuse of injuring them by car.
So is this a recent phenomenon? Was there a strong "good Samaritan" ethic, say, 20 years ago in China? And does this attitude apply just to helping out after accidents or to charity in general?
Its something to do with a society's approach to legalism + emotive concepts of retribution, shame + the finger-pointing that goes with it. But these things only conceal a deeper unhappiness in peoples' own lives + an inability to accept change...

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