Hit and run tragedy sparks national outcry on Chinese microblogging site

Posted on | oktober 19, 2011 | 2 Comments

Photo courtesy of TVS

What should we make of the video of a 2 year old Chinese girl being hi tand run over by two van drivers and then repeatedly ignored by pedestrians and cyclists passing by? Does it speak to a growing sense of social decay and increasing self-centered individualism that seems to have accompanied the country’s embrace of capitalism? Commentator Li Hongbing writing in the Peoples Daily, the flagship newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party, certainly seemed to think so, remarking that “ignoring the dyingor even helping with evil acts by negligence is ripping apart society’s ethical baseline and dissolving any sense of conscience deep in the souls of thepublic”.

Certainlythe images and plight of the 2 year old is harrowing. In total 18 people ignored the girl lying in a pool of her own blood until a 58 year old woman scavenging in rubbish tips came to her aid. However there is nothing about thisstory that makes it a Chinese phenomenon. There are countless incidents worldwide of people choosing to ignore the plight of others injured or wounded, or beset upon by thugs. Just google ‘bystanders ignore’ and you get separate incidents of Canadians ignoring a homeless man who was on fire; New Yorkers ignoring a man bleeding to death or Londoners ignoring a 12 year old Jewish girl beaten unconscious. All of these cases are as horrific and amoral.

So what isthe point of this week’s blog post? The point isthat the story also reveals how increasingly mobilized Chinese society is becoming online and how social media in China is as lively and active as in the West despite restrictions and censorship. Following the incident 4.4 million people posted comments on China’s own version of Twitter, Sina Weibo, under the hash-tag “Please end the cold-heartedness,” while another 2 million watched the video on the Internet television site Yoku.com. Sina Weibo was launched by Charles Chao after the Chinese government blocked Twitter in June 2009. A former journalist and accountant Chao took the gamble that despite government restrictions and self-censorship ordinary Chinese would flock to micro-blogging. His move paid off. By the end of the first quarter this year there were 140 million users of Sina Wibo compared to an estimated 100 million Twitter users.

Since itslaunch while the top-trends have often been about celebrities and other such trivial concerns Sina Weibo has become an outlet for controversial topics avoided by state-controlled media. According to Google’s former China head Lee Kai-fu, Sina Weibo has become, “by far the best platform for free speech in China”. Examples of this include widespread posts to links showing video footage of riots by migrant workers in Guagnzhouin June, to outrage at another hit and run, this time by Li Qiming, the son of the deputy director of the Baoding Public Security Bureau. Li, who was sentenced to six years in jail for killing Chen Xiaofeng in a hit and run, shouted Sue me if you dare! My father is Li Gang!” when authorities arrested him. The phrase “My father is Li Gang” subsequently went viral and top-trended creating a firestorm of protest over corruption and the preferential treatmentmeted out to the children of the party elite. As one ‘tweet’ on Sina Weibo fromVincent 88 echoed, “The son of Li Gang being sentenced to only six years because his father compensated the family shows that all you need to do is pay up first. I despise the ruling party,” said user Vincent-88.

So while weshould be shocked and disheartened by the 18 people who tragically and heartlessly ignored the victim of this hit and run we should also take heart at the national outcry that the incident provoked and the role of social media inenabling this.

AUTHOR: Dr. Jason Abbott
URL: http://profjabbott.blogspot.com
E-MAIL: jason.abbott [at] louisville.edu


2 Responses to “Hit and run tragedy sparks national outcry on Chinese microblogging site”

  1. kerry
    oktober 19th, 2011 @ 19:48

    Don’t bring it to Canada

  2. Michelle M.
    oktober 22nd, 2011 @ 02:40

    I have never seen such non human acts in my life. What has this world come too when you can’t take time and for a helpless child.

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