Morals in China have come under fire recently, as horrific stories of abandoned babies in toilets go viral on the Internet. Many say China’s problem isn’t poor morals necessarily, but rather a system that makes “doing the right thing” a liability for the good Samaritan. This, however, may soon change.
In a landmark case in 2006, a 65-year-old woman in Nanjing, Xu Shuolan, was jostled while trying to get off a bus. After falling to the ground, she was helped up by Peng Yu, who was 26 at the time, who had also gotten off the bus. As other people passed by without bothering to help, Peng rushed to help Xu up, going as far as taking her to the hospital and even paying for her hospital bill.
What came next was not the thanks Peng thought he would receive. Xu sued Peng for more than 45,000 yuan, over $7,300, in additional medical expenses and compensation, claiming that he was responsible for her tumble. This case, many Chinese say, is the reason citizens are reluctant to be good Samaritans, and set up the scene for the story of 2-year-old Yueyue, which captivated international audiences. In 2011, Yueyue was essentially left to die on the street in southern China after two vehicles hit the wandering toddler and fled the scene. Security camera footage caught the disturbing apathy from dozens of passing pedestrians, cyclists and other people in vehicles, navigating the street to avoid her body.
Now, many are hopeful that a new law will allow citizens to warm up to the idea of being helpful bystanders, instead of not reacting at all. According to the Nanfang, a Pearl River Delta community website, a much-needed good Samaritan law will be implemented in the southern city of Shenzhen on a trial basis. On Aug. 1, the Shenzhen’s People’s Congress will roll out the country’s first “Good Person’s Law,” formally known as the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone Good Samaritans’ Right Protection Regulation. The law dictates how those looking to help can be protected by the city from various forms of liability in a 10-bullet-point list.
Many online have criticized the new legislation, saying the vague and limited language still allows for too much flexibility in court, and could still mean that bystanders will be held accountable when trying to help. Still, most commend the law as an effort in the right direction.
“There must be something wrong when it is considered risky to be a good Samaritan,” an editorial in the state-run China Daily read. “Apathy and distrust are the last things a harmonious society need. It is imperative that we find a way to protect good Samaritans from being wronged.”