China: Fragile Morality

The lonely Samaritan

Guangzhou, Guangdong (Southern Metropolis Daily – September 5, 2007)

In a bus crammed with over 60 passengers, 2 men pressed down a lady onto the floor and snatched her cell phone. Zheng shanbing (郑善彬), a 26-year-old man that had been a soldier for two years, at once dashed up and kicked away the robbers. However, at the moment another 6 cahoots rushed onto the bus and surrounded Zheng, the 8 men together gave him a 7-minute hard buffet. During the 7 minutes, the 60 passengers stayed aside without anyone coming up to help him. During the chaos, when the lady was pushed to the crowd, they just eschewed her as if she was a plague.

When the 8 robbers got off in struts, Zheng’s shirt had been torn messy, footprints covered. His cell phone was robbed away. The numb passengers and the driver looked at them silently. The grieved lady glowered at them, crying out, “Where are your consciences! You won’t sleep at good rest tonight!”

The report and the lady’s penetrating charge soon led to fury in the Internet towards the passengers. It’s not the first case of its kind. Chinese call it “Seeing a Dying Man Without Saving Him”. Worn out by such apathy and numbness, some netizens, other than casting fury and condemnation, reconsidered it a reflection of the lack of Samaritan and the degeneration of morality of the contemporary mainland Chinese society.

San Jieyaoxian complaint the morality standard today has backslide:


When I was just a student I have joined with over 20 people chasing a thief. He was so lucky to escape. But now I dare not meddle in such things, unless I have enough friends with me and have absolute advantage over thieves.

A netizen from Zhongshan, a city near Guangzhou discussed in the point of law;


After getting on the bus, clients have authorized the bus company. Therefore the bus company has to guarantee the safety of their life and possessions. However, as even the bus driver didn’t stand out, the company has reneged on the contract. I suggest victims suing the company to gain the justice and compensation they deserve!

Gzz614 from Dalian just quotes Martin’s aphorism:
网易辽宁大连网友 [gzz614]:


They came first for the Communists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Catholics,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Catholic.
Then they came for me,
and by that time there was no one left to speak up

Another netizen from Pingdingshan introspects himself:


I used to see a Xinjiang girl picking a lady’s pocket but I blenched. I feel ashamed for this. I reckoned what if I had been thieved? I feel myself such a coward. I might be rueful with this for lifetime, and I believe I will perk up if I meet this again! We have to bolster the justice!

Another netizen Laoyingshimeile considers it in a practical way:


I have met that, but no one go up except me and another person. But we were blocked by the gang. Actually people have reasons not to go up. We don’t have a nice social security system; Samaritan can be a martyr with the cost of his life. But who would pay for you the cost in hospital?

It is upsetting to know how apathetic people around are. Besides the bus incident above, anther thing pertaining to morality was recorded by a netizen in Nanjing. After reviewing the post, some netizen grumbled: ” Our morality was undermined by our law!”

Aftershock of Pengyu Case

Not long after Pengyu Case did author Shi Hanbing(时寒冰) predict the judgement would lead people to evil and apathy. On 3, Oct, a post with several pictures attached recorded exactly a street incident in Nanjing that testified to his foreshadowing.

The title is: an old man bleeding on sidewalk lied on the ground but no one dared help!

Here is a rough narration of the original post.

I was on my way back company after lunch. I saw an old man over 70 hobbling head-on and suddenly tripped over in front of me 2 meters away. I was stunned, stopping and feeling lucky he didn’t fell down just beside me. Five men around him including me ossified there, no one daring going up.…… I called out that he was bleeding! A 40-year-old woman passing by kept babbling “Don’t meddle, don’t help him up, go, hurry up”, and hustling away.……
A girl bought napkins and helped rub blood stain away from the old man’s forehead, asking people around whether to send him to hospital. Some people immediately told her to go away and never take care of such things. ……She finally went and left the old man on the stair. She might be thinking why she shouldn’t help. The old man couldn’t hold and joggled and then lied down again……

Old man lying on the ground

It happend exactly in Nanjing, where months ago Pengyu was sentenced to be guilty. Is this an ironic story or a tragedy of modern society? I don't mean to blacken or make stunt- we have lots of good deeds and Samaritans to tell we are in a society of hopes, but from the two cases happened recently I have to say our morality is so fragile. We can do better, and we should.


  • Burmese

    Chinese ignore Burmese people sufferings
    Chinese disturb Burmese people struggling for FREEDOM
    China said killing, torturing Burmese people by Burmese junta is not concerned with China
    Chinese do not have hearts to help people in trouble
    One day Chinese will be troubled with that low standard attitude
    China has no religion officially

    So they don’t know how to help people in trouble

    Chinese also lie China will let Burmese people decide their future. But practically they disturb Burmese people sruggling for their freedom and China want Burmesse people still live under military regieme that kill its own people and monks.

  • Sorry, but I have to point out that Chinese PEOPLE do understand Burma’s suffering and pain, even have resonance with them. Please refer to these two posts:

    It is arbitrary to tag Chinese apathetic though in cruel struggle for development we might be gradually growing numb. But we have introspection and reconsider our attitude because we realize we will be hurt by apathy. Actually we can see much more news about good deeds everyday; I report those above just for alarm that we can do better. Please believe me on giving others hands we are no less good than any other people.

  • You should do a post and show some photos of the beggers, especially the limp (both as in deformed with difficulty walking, and as in palsied, as in held or propped up by someone else) or limbless. They are frequently seen in Chinese city streets.

  • Mike

    There is a phenomenon known in social psychology as diffusion of responsibility. It basically means that people are less likely to help someone in need if there are other people around, because everyone thinks someone else will, or they are waiting for a cue from others to engage in helping behavior. If the elderly man had fallen down in a less populated area and the narrator was the only one there, he would have been more likely to help him.
    The people actively discouraging helping behavior in others is a bit different, though. There’s a fair amount of selfishness and indifference in America too, and I have seen similar behavior here.

  • […] morning while typing up the weekend GV digest, I felt a special connection with Zheng Shanbing, the 26-year-old sole defender of an older woman who was being robbed on a public bus…. When Zheng came to her resuce he was beaten badly by the robbers for 7 minutes, during which none […]

  • Rose Liu

    on Burmese,
    I am sorry about things happening in your country. but what you condemned about the ignorance of chinese are not ture. At least, as a chinese youth, I hope the pro-demoncracy can win victory over the junta regime at the lowest cast of Burma people. The reason why have the worng ideas about chinese people are that first chinese do not have the freedom of speech too, second all the media are controlled by the goveernment, either you browse through the websites or watch news on TV, we don’t have any news about your country, even we have slightest ones, they have been revised and therefore they are lies.

  • Charles Liu

    Please, Bob, good samaritan beating happens in America too:

  • Indeed. But it is still not right, no matter in Bagdad or Washington. Isn’t it?

  • canrun

    @Charles Liu:
    That incident took place in England. Check your facts first, please.

  • Antonio

    I am a chinese, and i think why this happened is because the onlookers feel nobody would take care of their family if they are hurt during the fight with the gang.

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