An 80-year-old Chinese man decided to write a thank you letter after being helped by a little girl while many other people passed by with indifference. He then raised attention to a prominent issue that affects Chinese society these days.
As mainland Chinese media Aboluowang reported, on May 18, an older man surnamed Luo in Wenshan, Yunnan province, China, fell while walking on the street. He was so weak that he couldn’t get up on his own. After seeing that scene, many people indifferently walked over, ignoring him. Fortunately, there was still an elementary school student named Peng Meihan to help him. At that time, she was on his way home from school. She and her grandmother quickly walked over to help the man, and Luo finally could stand up.
From the surveillance video that went viral on Weibo social media, Luo was wobbly standing against the wall, with his whole body shaking. He suddenly fell to the ground, but none of the people passing by on the street reached out to help him. Instead, the first thing they did was take out their phones to film and take pictures.
After falling to the ground, Luo still tried to stand up, but he was helpless because of his old age and weakness. Amid despair, suddenly, the little girl Meihan and her grandmother walked over and carefully helped him up, asking him and checking if he was in pain anywhere. Meihan and her grandmother left only after confirming that Luo was not injured.
Luo was very touched by the good deeds of both. He wrote a letter to Meihan’s elementary school to express his gratitude. In the letter, he said that he stared at passersby looking at him with curious eyes, and then leaving quickly. He added that he could see some people with worry in their eyes when they saw him fall. He explained, “I feel that there is doubt in their hearts because of their fear. As media often reports that many elderly people pretend to be in trouble, then blame and ask for compensation from those who came to help them”.
He added, “Regardless of the disturbing propaganda, Meihan and her grandmother rushed to help me up. After I was safe, they only told me one sentence before leaving, “That’s what we should do.” Luo was touched by the altruist kindness of Meihan and her grandmother.
Luo mentioned a recurrent phenomenon in Chinese society. There is a loss of faith in people that makes them no longer willing to do good deeds for others.
Fernando Mata Licón published an article on medium.com titled “Why people won’t normally help you in an accident in China?” He shares his experiences in China, where people seem unwilling to help others when seeing them in trouble on the road. He wrote: “While individualism in China is a big thing, this situation is more related to the fear of being accused as the responsible of the accident, even when you just tried to help.”
Licón then cited past examples that undermined Chinese confidence.
In 2006 in Nanjing city, while an older woman named Xu Shoulan was trying to get off a bus, she fell and broke her femur. Peng Yu passed by and helped take her to the hospital and gave her 200 yuan to pay for her treatment. After the first diagnosis, Xu needed a femur replacement surgery, but she refused to pay for it herself. She asked Peng to pay because Peng must be responsible for the accident, as she said. She sued him, and she won after six months. So Peng had to cover all the medical expenses for her. The court made an odd statement, “no one would, in good conscience, help someone unless they felt guilty.”
In a few extreme cases, the Chinese refusal to help has resulted in the death of the person in need. For example, a two-year-old girl named Wang Yue was walking alone in a narrow alley while her mother was busy doing the laundry. She was run over by two cars, and people passing through the area didn’t even look at her. Then, a survey, which remains anonymous, publicly found that 71% said passersby didn’t stop to help the toddler because they were afraid of getting into trouble.
In 2011, an 88-year-old Chinese man fell on the street and broke his nose. People passing by did not help him, and he suffocated to death from his own blood.
Licón concludes that this is one of the sad parts of Chinese culture today, and it is encouraged by the public authorities when, for example, they conclude that a person will not naturally help others if they do not feel guilty.
However, traditional Chinese culture was founded on developing one’s virtues and being altruist through the teachings of Confucius, Buddhism, and Daoism. Chinese people have suffered greatly in the last 100 years. But the traditional teachings are printed in their souls.
The Irish poet William Butler Yeats once wrote, “too long a sacrifice can make a stone of the heart.” The only way to overcome extreme suffering for the Chinese people is to return to their roots.
Indeed, Little Meihan and her grandmother’s action is a beacon of hope in today’s China.