It has become somewhat of an urban Chinese legend: a passerby assists an old lady who has fallen down, and is then held liable for her injury. Stories like these often come up when people talk about China’s well-known bystander problem. This week, a similar story became a hot topic on Sina Weibo, with the main question: did the old lady fall herself, or was she knocked down?
“Did the old lady fall herself, or was she knocked down?”
This week, a Weibo message became trending when a girl from Anhui searched for eyewitnesses of her helping an old lady, who then blamed her for her fall. The female student, named Xiao Yuan, was allegedly cycling near her university when an old lady fell down and broke her hip. After Xiao Yuan helped the lady, she was held responsible for her injury.
Family members of the injured woman claim that Xiao Yuan is liable. The university student not only go to the hospital with the woman, they tell Beijing Morning Post, she also apologized to her, and paid 2000 RMB (±310$) with her fellow student as an advance payment for medical costs. “If it was not her fault, then why would she do that?”, family members wonder.
“I did a good thing, why turn against me?”
Xiao Yuan maintains her innocence, and says on Weibo: “I did a good thing, why turn against me?” She claims she only assisted the woman in going to the hospital because her injury was quite serious, and she just wanted to help out. She paid money together with her classmate because the old woman did not have enough money with her, and the leg needed surgery.
Xiao Yuan’s Weibo post asking for eyewitnesses has been effective. An eyewitness came forward yesterday night, posting pictures of the incident and stating on Weibo that the lady was not knocked down. The witness had already seen that the old lady had some trouble walking before she fell down. When Xiao Yuan passed her on her bicycle, she fell on the ground for unknown reasons and then yelled after her. Xiao Yuan stepped off the bicycle to help her get up, and assisted her in getting to the hospital. The eyewitness states that there clearly was a distance between Xiao Yuan and the woman when they passed each other on the street.
This is not the first time a ‘Good Samaritan’ gets into trouble in China. There are many stories of people who are disadvantaged for helping others in need. A well-known story is that of Peng Yu who helped an old lady get up after a fall, and was later held accountable for causing it. Peng Yu was sued and had to pay a large sum of money for the woman’s medical costs.
Another high profile case is that of Hugjilu. One night in Hohhot in 1996, Hugjilu heard a woman screaming and rushed out to help her, only to to find her dead body. He called the police, who suspected him and forced him into confession. The 18-year-old Hugjiltu was convicted of rape and murder, and was executed three months later. Authorities only recently admitted it was a miscarriage of justice, after finding the actual murderer of the woman.
It is stories such as these that can partly explain China’s so-called ‘bystanders problem‘, where many people will do nothing when someone is in need of help. A notorious 2013 case is that of a 26-year-old Beijing woman who got her head stuck between railings next to a road. Although there were many people passing by and taking pictures, it took thirty minutes to call the police. The woman was later pronounced brain dead in the hospital. In 2011, security cameras recorded how a two-year-old girl in Foshan was struck by a van. As she lay in the road, 18 people passed by without helping. The girl was killed when a second car hit her. The story became international news.
The Anhui case has not been settled yet. Local police are currently investigating the matter. In the meantime, Xiao Yuan has become a Weibo celebrity overnight. “It has been three days since the incident,” she writes: “and I am still waiting for the police to answer me. People have been sending me private messages and journalists have been contacting me (..). I am just a student, and I need space to study. Why has this case not been settled yet? Can anybody tell me what to do?” In another post she says: “If I ever need to help an old lady again, I will make sure I videotape it.”
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Exchange Student to Be Deported from China for Harassing Young Woman at University
An exchange student studying at the Hebei University of Engineering has been expelled and will soon be deported after harassing a female student.
An exchange student from Pakistan who was studying at the Hebei University of Engineering (河北工程大学) has been expelled and detained after harassing a female student at the same university.
The incident, that is attracting much attention on Chinese social media this week, adds to the wave of recent controversies over the behavior and status of overseas students in mainland China.
On July 31, a female student at the Hebei university filed a police report against a Pakistani student who allegedly harassed her and attempted to forcefully kiss her and touch her breasts.
Screenshots of a supposed WeChat conversation between the exchange student and the female student, in which the man apologizes and claims the interaction is a “requirement for friendship,” are being shared on social media.
According to various reports, the police initially tried to mediate between the two students, which the female student refused.
Together with the school principal, the police then further investigated the case and found ample evidence of harassment after examining the university’s surveillance system.
On August 1st, the Hebei University of Engineering announced that they had expelled the student and that he will be deported from China. The announcement received more than 14,000 reactions and 150,000 ‘likes’ on Weibo.
The student is now detained at the local Public Security Bureau and is awaiting his deportation.
A photo of two officers together with a man in front of the detention center in Handan is circulating on social media in relation to this incident.
At time of writing, the hashtag page “Exchange Student to Be Deported after Molesting Female Student” (#留学生猥亵女学生将被遣送出境#) has been viewed over 310 million times on Weibo.
Among thousands of reactions, there are many who praise the Hebei university for supporting the female student after she reported the exchange student to the police.
“This may not be the best university, but at least they stand behind their students!”, some say, with others calling the university “awesome.”
Many say that the Hebei university should serve as an example for other Chinese universities to follow, with Shandong University being specifically mentioned by Weibo users.
Shandong University was widely criticized earlier this summer for its “buddy exchange program,” which was accused of being a way to arrange Chinese “girlfriends” for male foreign students.
Another incident that is mentioned in relation to this trending story is that of an exchange student who displayed aggressive behavior towards a Chinese police officer in July of this year. The student was not punished for his actions, which sparked anger on Chinese social media.
“Bolt from the Blue”: Mainland Tourists Can No Longer Independently Travel to Taiwan
Chinese tourists who were planning a solo trip to Taiwan are out of luck.
After Chinese authorities announced on July 31st that China will stop issuing individual travel permits for mainland residents visiting Taiwan, the topic became one of the most-discussed topics on social media this week.
China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism stated on its website that independent travel to Taiwan will be suspended from August 1st “in view of the current cross-strait situation.”
State media outlet Global Times writes that the individual travel suspension is a result of “repeated provocative actions by the Tsai Ing-wen administration and secessionist forces on the island.”
Taipei Times explained the move as “another attempt to isolate Taiwan in the hope of spoiling President Tsai Ing-wen’s re-election chances.” Taiwan will hold its presidential elections in January 2020.
On Wednesday night local time, hashtags relating to the individual travel ban had gathered millions of views and comments on Sina Weibo.
ROC Restrictions for Mainland Travelers
Tourists from mainland China face restrictions when traveling to Taiwan, Republic of China (ROC), and must hold a travel permit to visit.
In July of 2008, PRC passport holders were first legally allowed to visit Taiwan for tourism purposes, but only if they joined a pre-approved group tour organized by a selected travel agency.
In 2011, these rules were relaxed after Taiwanese and mainland authorities agreed on a trial to allow mainland residents visiting Taiwan as individual tourists.
Under the terms of that ‘trial,’ mainland residents from 47 cities could apply for individual entry permits to Taiwan. These cities included places such as Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai, Harbin, Xiamen, and others.
With Wednesday’s statement, that program is currently put on hold. According to Focus Taiwan, this is the first time Beijing authorities have banned individual travelers from visiting Taiwan since June 2011.
Mainland tourists who want to visit Taiwan will now have to go back to joining tour groups again.
The Taiwanese tourism industry relies heavily on Chinese tourists. In 2015, the year before Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen was elected, 4.2 million mainlanders visited the island, making up 40 percent of all tourists.
“A Bolt From the Blue”
On Weibo, the “Taiwan Individual Travel” account, an information channel for tourists, called the ban “a bolt from the blue” and said that it is unclear how long the restrictions will last: “We just hope that it is temporary.”
The post received over 11,500 comments from netizens, many of whom are confused about the ban and concerned on how it will affect their personal travel plans.
“I already received my permit, can I still go?” many wondered.
According to the China International Travel Service, mainland travelers with permits issued before August 1st can still go on their planned individual trips.
In a Weibo poll answered by more than 210,000 social media users, state media outlet China Daily asked people if they would still consider visiting Taiwan after the restrictions on individual travel permits.
While more than 10 percent indicated they would be willing to join a tour group and still visit, a staggering 89,5 percent indicated they preferred free traveling and would not go at all.
“I will go once [the mainland and Taiwan are] unified,” some popular comments said.
Discussions over the ongoing Taiwan Strait Issue often flare up on Chinese social media. In August of 2018 for example, Taipei-born actress Vivian Sung ignited a storm of criticism on Weibo for a comment she made about Taiwan being her “favorite country.”
Last November, Taipei’s Golden Horse Film Festival was overclouded by controversy due to a speech about Taiwan independence (read here). Chinese state media responded to the issue by promoting the hashtags “China Can’t Become Smaller” and “Not Even a Bit Can Be Removed from China” (#中国一点都不能少#).
Earlier this year, many Chinese netizens were furious to discover that the super popular Taiwanese online game Devotion contained secret insults toward President Xi Jinping.
Although big discussions on the current Taiwan travel ban are filtered on Chinese social media, there are still some smaller threads where Weibo users are speculating about the reasons behind the move.
Some blame Taiwan leader Tsai Ing-wen, and see the latest travel measures as a way for Beijing to economically impact the island’s tourism industry to influence upcoming elections.
Others argue that the current ban is more of a “protective measure,” to make sure Chinese travelers who individually roam Taiwan will not be influenced by its election campaigns and media.
Then there are also those who think the entire issue is all about the ongoing Hong Kong protests.
Responses are overall very mixed. Although there are netizens supporting the solo travel ban, there are also those who think the measure will have an ‘opposite effect’ of that desired.
Although Weibo is mostly popular in mainland China, the social media platform is also used by Taiwanese netizens.
“I heard many of our Taiwanese online friends are happy to hear the news [about the travel restrictions]. Finally, this is something that cross-strait netizens can agree on!” one popular Beijing blogger (@地瓜熊老六) writes, sharing an online meme that shows Taiwanese scenery with the line ‘Welcome to Taiwan, without Chinese.’
Still, there are also many Weibo users who want to visit Taiwan by themselves and are just concerned about the practicalities: “So, when do you think I will be able to visit again?”
“I was just preparing to go and visit Taiwan,” one commenter writes, posting a crying emoji: “Nevertheless, I will still support China in this.”
Featured image: Photo by Vernon Raineil Cenzon
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